According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, lateral epicondylitis is a condition caused by the overuse of the elbow. The name tennis elbow comes from its association with the repeated instances in tennis and racquetball (10% to 15% of tennis players experience this condition, compared to 1% to 3% of the general population). If you have been experiencing pain in your elbow and think it may be tennis elbow, contact Dr. Stein for an evaluation today. As an experienced sports medicine doctor in Washington DC, Dr. Stein will personally consult with you to handle your elbow pain in the most effective way possible.
What Causes Tennis Elbow?
As the name suggests, the repeated movements associated with sports like tennis cause tennis elbow. However, there are other causes to consider. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons sites that the condition is actually related to specific muscles in the forearm, not the elbow. When overuse damages these muscles, tears form in the tendon. This causes inflammation and pain that can be felt in the elbow.
Other professionals that are at risk for this condition include painters, plumbers, carpenters, auto workers, and cooks. However, people outside these professions can still get tennis elbow. If you notice any of the symptoms occurring, it is important to seek medical help immediately.
Symptoms to Look Out For
For many patients, tennis elbow can slowly develop over time from continued overuse. Since symptoms likely will not appear overnight, it is important to be familiar with the warning signs and when to seek professional help. The first symptom to look out for is pain in the outer part of the elbow. With repetitive movements and continued overuse, the tendons in the elbow become agitated and cause you to experience pain.
Another symptom to look out for is a weakened grip. The forearms play a large role in tennis elbow. Since the tendons associated with tennis elbow extend to the wrist and fingers, your grip strength can be compromised. Make note of any pain that occurs when shaking hands, turning the doorknob, or grabbing your morning cup of coffee.
Tennis Elbow Treatment
Once you receive a diagnosis from a trained professional, the next step will be to go over your treatment options. Depending on the severity of your tennis elbow, you may be advised to initially cease participation in any recreational activity. This will avoid damaging the area any further and potentially give your forearm a chance to rest.
If the tennis elbow is in the earlier stages, Dr. Stein may suggest other tests, like an X-ray, to ensure that there are no other conditions that are causing your symptoms. If Dr. Stein finds that the source of your symptoms is tennis elbow, then there are both surgical and non-surgical options to consider.
Non-surgical options include treatment plans like physical therapy or incorporating anti-inflammatory medicines. These options will reduce swelling, decrease pain, and increase the strength in your forearm and grip. There are additional non-surgical options, like a brace or steroid injections, which may be advised as well. These options will focus on relieving the pain and relaxing the muscles and tendons being affected.
Although the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has found that between 80% and 95% of patients have success with non-surgical treatments, there are surgical options as well if those don’t work. Open surgery involves making an incision over the elbow and reattaching the healthy muscle back to the bone. Since there are surgical risks, as with any surgery, this option is not recommended until symptoms persist for 6 to 12 months or the non-surgical options have not worked at providing pain relief.