What is Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)?
Tennis Elbow is the colloquial term for the condition that occurs in the tendons that attach to the lateral (“outside”) part of the elbow. These tendons are responsible for extending the wrist and fingers. The condition is not actually caused by inflammation of the tendons. Instead, the affected tendons have microscopic tears and degeneration. It is thought that this structural weakness of the tendons leads to pain. Tennis Elbow is very common and often develops in people in their 4th and 5th decades of life.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
Pain at the lateral side of the elbow is very common. This pain may extend down the forearm as well, along the path of the affected tendons and their respective muscles. The pain is generally aggravated by use of the hand and wrist, such as lifting and forcefully gripping and twisting. Tennis Elbow may also cause similar discomfort along the medial (inside) part of the elbow.
Common Causes of Tennis Elbow
As the name indicates, Tennis Elbow is common to tennis, racquetball, and other racket sports players. Tennis Elbow can also appear in individuals who participate in any activity that demands repetitive use of the forearm and wrist, such as lifting heavy bags/briefcases, painting, raking leaves, and even dentistry.
Diagnosing Tennis Elbow
Speaking with you to understand the location of pain and what makes it worse is essential. A careful physical exam of not only your elbow, but also you forearm, wrist, and hand is important. An x-ray will help rule out possible bone or joint abnormalities that may contribute to elbow pain.
Treatment Options for Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow is thought to be a self-limiting condition, but conservative treatment measures can accelerate the healing process, such as rest, icing, anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, and counter-force bracing. For athletes, treatment begins with prevention, especially through core strengthening exercises. This enhances the flow of mechanical energy through the kinetic chain from the torso to the hand. Cortisone injection can be considered for particularly painful cases. Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) is also an option to aid healing. Severe and prolonged cases refractory to conservative treatment may benefit from arthroscopic or mini-open surgery.
Tennis Elbow is very common and can cause significant difficulty with work and recreation. Call Dr. Pruzansky at 212-249-8700 to schedule an appointment and get you back in your game.