Lateral epicondylitis is the medical term for tennis elbow, which is a condition that can even affect people who have never played tennis. Below, we discuss what you need to know about tennis elbow – what it is, its symptoms, and how best to treat it.
Repetitive Strain Injury of the Elbow
Tennis elbow is a repetitive strain injury (RSI) that results from ongoing, repetitive tasks and movements. These movements typically involve:
- Forceful exertions
- Mechanical compression
- Awkward or sustained positions
Other common RSIs include golfer’s elbow and carpal tunnel syndrome. In the case of tennis elbow, the tendon fibers that attach to the bone outside the elbow begin to deteriorate.
When the tendons don’t stretch as easily as they used to, they can become susceptible to traumatic stress and degeneration. The affected area usually is the extensor carpi radialis brevis – the muscles in the forearm – which undergo strain with repeated backhand and forearm strokes.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow usually feels like severe burning pain and tenderness at the outer side of the elbow and/or forearm. As with most RSIs, the pain starts gradually; often there is not one specific moment where the injury occurs or begins to be noticed, as it would with a dislocated elbow.
Pressure applied to the outside elbow may cause the pain to worsen. Some people may experience stiffness in the morning and aching throughout the day.
You eventually may not be able to perform certain motions, or even be able to move your arm at all. That is why medical attention is so important early on.
How Is Tennis Elbow Diagnosed?
Experiencing the above symptoms, especially if you are a tennis player or perform similar repetitive tasks (either at your job or during any pastime), will likely lead you to an orthopedist. The physician will take down your health history in order to rule out arthritis or any sort of strain or sprain, and the doctor will request an X-ray of the area.
Because a tendon is affected, the doctor may also recommend an MRI scan. If the diagnosis comes back positive, your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan.
Treating Tennis Elbow
There are a number of ways to treat tennis elbow, and surgery is usually not necessary. You actually may be able to prevent your symptoms from getting worse by working on your technique with an experienced tennis coach or fitness trainer, or by reviewing video of yourself to analyze incorrect movements.
If your tennis elbow is work-related, talk to an occupational health specialist for tips on how to reduce risk of further injury. For example, you may be able to fix the problem by creating an ergonomic workspace or by making adaptations or modifications. You also may seek out a physical therapist for natural treatment.
Elbow Doctors in Maryland
Tennis elbow can be prevented by listening to your body and focusing on proper movement and technique. If you do feel you have or are developing tennis elbow, you may want to visit a medical professional who specializes in elbow conditions.
In Maryland, those specialists can be found at Greater Chesapeake Hand to Shoulder. With multiple locations across the state for your convenience, our board-certified experts are ready to give you the best treatment available.
Call our main office today (410) 296-6232 or request an appointment online at one of our locations in the Greater Chesapeake area. We look forward to helping you get back to the lifestyle you love.