A condition well known for affecting tennis players, tennis elbow affects muscles and tendons in the forearm that are attached to the bone on the outside of the elbow. While people gravitating to racquet sports are indeed at risk, tennis elbow can affect people involved in a variety of sporting activities and work environments. It can also affect you if you twist your wrist repeatedly on a regular basis, or if you type on a computer keyboard without proper support.
What causes it?
Tennis elbow is one of the most common types of tendinitis. It is an overuse injury where repetitive use of the forearm muscle results in pain on the outside of the elbow. Athletes involved in weightlifting or throwing sports, workers such as painters and plumbers, or anyone engaged in vigorous use of the forearm are particularly susceptible to tennis elbow.
How do you know you have it?
Tennis elbow symptoms typically develop slowly, with increasing levels of pain as time goes on, and is present most often in the dominant arm. Common signs include:
- Pain centered around the outer part of your elbow
- Weakness in gripping
How we fix it
The OSI upper extremity team is here to listen, discuss your concerns, and examine you for signs and symptoms of tennis elbow. Our goal is to have you enjoying the activities you love, without pain. While under our expert care, you may undergo the following:
- Physical exam: Your doctor will perform a careful examination of your arm, fingers, and elbow; discuss activities that lead to symptoms; and ask about any history of injury, arthritis, or nerve disease.
- X-rays: X-rays will allow your doctor to confirm the diagnosis of tennis elbow.
- MRI: An MRI may be ordered to check for other issues, such as neck arthritis, which can lead to arm pain.
- Electromyography (EMG): An EMG can be used to rule out nerve compression, which mimics the symptoms of tennis elbow.
The vast majority of patients seeking relief from tennis elbow are successfully treated with nonsurgical techniques:
- Rest: For a few weeks, you will need to stop the activities that bring about the symptoms in order to provide proper rest time for your arm.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines: Aspirin or ibuprofen will decrease swelling and pain.
- Physical therapy
- Steroid injections
Your doctor may recommend surgery if symptoms do not respond to nonsurgical approaches, usually after a period of 6 to 12 months. In many cases, minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery is the preferred approach.