Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, develops when the tendons on the outside of your elbow are stressed from overuse.
When you repeatedly overload the muscle and tendon, especially with weight, they can develop microscopic tears, potentially accompanied by inflammation.
But I Don’t Play Tennis!
Tennis elbow may be common in those who play tennis and other racquet sports, but you don’t have to play tennis to have tennis elbow. This diagnosis is also common in several professions that use the elbow repetitively including chef, gardener, painter, butcher and woodworker.
Golfer’s elbow is another overuse injury that patients often mistake for tennis elbow. The key difference is that golfer’s elbow affects the inside of the elbow, while tennis elbow is felt on the outside.
How Do I Know if I Have Tennis Elbow?
Unlike many orthopedic conditions and sports medicine injuries, tennis elbow has some recognizable symptoms.
Tennis elbow may present as an ache that develops gradually and worsens into pain over time. The pain is focused on the lower outside portion of the elbow. It may also include a burning sensation that radiates down the arm. These pain typically worsen with activity.
If you try to turn a doorknob, shake hands or grip a glass with the affected arm, you will experience pain and weakness. Extending your wrist and fingers backward will also result in pain.
To diagnose tennis elbow, an orthopedic surgeon or sports medicine doctor will talk to you about your activities and perform a manual examination to test your arm strength, range of motion and pain levels. The doctor may also request X-rays, MRI or EMG tests to rule out other conditions such as arthritis, nerve damage or neck problems.
How Is Tennis Elbow Treated?
For most patients, the RICE protocol (rest, ice, compression and elevation) and specific bracing are effective for relieving the pain and weakness associated with tennis elbow. Some patients may require steroid injections or other advanced therapies to repair soft tissue damage in the elbow. In limited cases, tennis elbow surgery may be necessary.
Once the pain disappears, you are free to resume your regular activities. However, unless you rectify the underlying problem that caused your tennis elbow, it is possible for it to recur.
Longterm management of tennis elbow many times includes specific physical therapy muscle specific strengthening and stretching. A biomechanical assessment can also help identify whether specific aspects of your technique can be modified to reduce your chances of a recurrence.
In West Jordan, Riverton and West Valley City, Utah, the Center of Orthopedic & Rehabilitation Excellence (CORE) provides world-class orthopedic and sports medicine services. Dr. Hatch understand how important it is to get rid of the pain and get you back to work and play as quickly as possible. Contact us today to schedule an evaluation for tennis elbow.