Did you know it’s possible to get tennis elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis) without having ever played tennis? Tennis elbow is an orthopedic condition of the elbow typically caused by overuse, and a very small amount of people actually develop the condition because of playing tennis. Most people get the condition by doing a variety of ordinary tasks that aren’t obvious causes of the condition.
Tennis elbow is essentially caused by overuse of the elbow joint, while the forearm muscles are tightly griping an object. A forearm muscle called the extensor carpi brevis stabilizes the elbow when the arm is straight. When this muscle is overused, it weakens, and microscopic tears develop in the muscle and/or tendon, causing pain. Because tennis elbow is caused by overuse which can happen to people of all ages and backgrounds, it is a widespread condition that can impact anyone.
The most common symptom of tennis elbow is pain in the outside of the elbow joint and forearm. The most common indicators are pain or burning on the outside edge of the elbow and weakness when trying to grip an item. These symptoms appear gradually and can take months, or years to develop enough for a person to think he or she needs medical attention.
Most individuals with tennis elbow who don’t seek treatment find their symptoms worsening over time. Eventually, some patients find it difficult to do daily tasks such as holding a racquet or hammer, turning a wrench, or shaking hands. Tennis elbow normally affects the dominant arm because it’s used more heavily than the other arm. However, in cases where both arms are used extensively (such as in sports), patients can experience tennis elbow in both arms.
Diagnosing Tennis Elbow
Doctors diagnose tennis elbow by learning about a patient’s background, lifestyle, and symptoms. They will also do a physical examination and ask for x-rays to see if there is another underlying issue causing the pain. Based on the findings, the doctor will diagnose the patient.
There are many ways to treat tennis elbow and most patients require a combination of treatments for effective and long-lasting results. Mild tennis elbow pain can be treated with over-the-counter NSAIDs and rest. If these measures do not help alleviate symptoms, a forearm brace and physical therapy may be necessary. There are also other types of treatments available that have shown improvements in many patients. An example includes platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy.
If the above measures don’t show an improvement within 6-12 months, surgical intervention may be necessary. A surgeon will open the elbow up and manually remove the damaged section of the tendon using either one large incision or several smaller incisions.
If you feel you might have tennis elbow, it’s important to get checked out by a qualified doctor who understands your symptoms and can accurately diagnose you. Contact the team at Greater Chesapeake Hand to Shoulder for high-quality and patient-focused care by calling (410) 296-6232 to set up an appointment at one of their 6 locations in Maryland, or request a consultation online.