An Overview of Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)
Lateral epicondylitis, also known as tennis elbow, is a painful condition marked by inflammation of the tendons that join the muscles of the forearm on the outside of the elbow joint. When athletes and other active individuals are struggling with the symptoms of this elbow condition, a team approach involving elbow specialists and physical therapists is often required for effective treatment. Serving the Dallas, Frisco and Fort Worth, Texas area, the team at Texas Sports Medicine specializes in tennis elbow and is highly trained at returning athletes back to the court.
What is Lateral Epicondylitis?
Lateral epicondylitis is caused when the extensor tendons that attach to the lateral epicondyle become inflamed and damaged, typically from overuse. The inflammation and tendon damage affects the outside of the elbow joint.
Tennis elbow is quite common in athletes who participate in tennis, weightlifting and other racquet sports because of the repetitive arm and forearm motions involved in the activities. It is important to note the elbow condition is not always linked to sports. Workers involved in plumbing, painting and gardening are also prone to this condition.
Individuals who use their forearms continuously can reduce the risk of tennis elbow by decreasing sport intensity, utilizing the correct technique and equipment and performing elbow exercises designed to strengthen the joint on a regular basis.
Tennis Elbow Symptoms
Symptoms of lateral epicondylitis develop over time. In most cases, the symptoms begin as a mild annoyance and worsen over weeks and months. Symptoms include:
- Pain on the outside of the elbow that radiates to the forearm and wrist
- Difficulty grasping items
- Weak and/or painful grip
Tennis Elbow Treatment
Elbow specialists estimate between 80-95% of patients have a successful treatment outcome with nonoperative measures.
- Stop all activities so the tendon has the ability to heal
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications can reduce pain and swelling
- A brace centered over the extensor tendons reduces symptoms by resting the affected tendons and muscles
- Physical therapy
- Designed to strengthen the forearm muscles
- Platelet rich plasma (PRP) may accelerate the healing process of torn and damaged tendons
- Corticosteroid injections can alleviate pain but do not promote healing and can cause further tendon degeneration
- Equipment check
- Have racquet equipment checked to determine proper fit
- Percutaneous Tenotomy (Tenex)
- Minimally invasive technique performed under ultrasound guidance which removes the diseased tissue while promoting a healing response
- Arthroscopic surgery
- Surgical technique: Tennis elbow can be treated using arthroscopic instruments that are designed to remove the diseased tendon in a minimally invasive approach.
- Open surgery
- Surgical technique: Lateral epicondylitis can be treated with an open surgery that involves making an incision over the elbow, removing damaged tissue and reattaching healthy tissue back to bone. Drill holes are created in the bone to stimulate stems cells, which augment the reparative process.
- Splint and sutures will be removed after 10-14 days
- Therapy to stretch the joint and restore flexibility will start after splint removal
- Therapy to strengthen the repaired joint will occur after 6-8 weeks
- Return to play is usually 3-4 months
If you live in the Dallas, Frisco and Fort Worth, Texas communities and would like more information on lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow), please contact the elbow specialists at Texas Sports Medicine.