TENNIS ELBOW (LATERAL EPICONDYLITIS)

What is Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)?

Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, refers to a painful condition of the elbow caused by overuse, similar to golfer’s elbow. Tennis Players often suffer from Lateral Epicondylitis, but several other activities can also put you at risk.

Tennis elbow involves inflammation of the tendons that connect the forearm muscles on the outside of the elbow. As the forearm muscles and tendons deteriorate from overuse, this leads to pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow.

There are several treatment options for tennis elbow. 

SYMPTOMS OF TENNIS ELBOW (LATERAL EPICONDYLITIS)

The symptoms of tennis elbow tend to develop gradually. In most cases, the pain starts mild and slowly gets worse over several months. Patients can still experience Tennis Elbow even if they have not suffered an elbow injury leading up to it.

Common symptoms of tennis elbow include:

  • Pain and burning on the outer part of your elbow
  • Weakened grip strength

The symptoms often worsen with more forearm activity, such as swinging a tennis racket, turning a wrench, or shaking hands. 

 

CONSERVATIVE TREATMENT

The first step towards recovering from any overuse injury is resting.  Rest, ice, compression, and over the counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers make up the first line of defense when it comes to Tennis Elbow.  If home treatment does not offer relief, patients may want to see a physician to try cortisone injections.  Your physician may suggest some exercises to try at home, or possibly suggest physical therapy to build endurance and flexibility into the arm and forearm. Patient’s may try a brace combined with modifying their technique if athletic participation lies at the source of the condition.  Patients should attempt these therapies for 6-12 months before considering surgical intervention. Physical therapists will examine the elbow and decide if patients should use an elbow brace or elbow support to protect the muscles while the area heals. Depending on the severity, your Elbow Physical Therapist may recommend that you consult with another health care provider for more testing or for additional treatment and medication. In rare cases, the Elbow Physical Therapist may recommend you ask your treating physician about cortisone injections or surgery. Your Elbow Physical Therapist can help patients determine whether they will need a referral to another health care provider.

SURGICAL TREATMENT

After 6-12 months of conservative treatment with no significant change, patients should discuss the possibility of surgical intervention with their specialist.

OPEN TENNIS ELBOW SURGERY (LATERAL EPICONDYLITIS SURGERY)

Open surgery involves a surgical incision on the top of the elbow joint where the muscle attaches to the bone.  Elbow Specialists will remove damaged muscle along with any bone spurs that may cause damage.  The surgeon will then graft healthy muscle to the bone to replace the cut away section and then the surgeon will close the area.

ARTHROSCOPIC TENNIS ELBOW SURGERY (LATERAL EPICONDYLITIS SURGERY)

Arthroscopic Tennis Elbow surgery will follow mostly the same steps as open surgery but performed through an arthroscope with smaller incisions in the elbow. 

TENNIS ELBOW SURGERY RECOVERY

As an outpatient procedure patients can expect to go home the same day after having surgery on the lateral epicondyle. The physician  will put you in a splint that you will wear for a week after surgery.  After removing the splint, your surgeon may instruct you to do some light stretching as you heal.  After the two-month mark, the physician will add a physical therapy regimen to start to increase flexibility and start to gradually build strength back.  Maximum recovery is expected to be achieved in 4-6 months after surgery with between an 80-90% success rate.  Some loss of strength is to be expected as it is very common after the removal of muscle and the atrophy from rest while healing.