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Can Tennis Elbow Affect your Shoulder?

man with shoulder pain seeing a doctorTennis elbow is common among tennis players and other athletes, but it can also affect people who have never picked up a racquet. This type of injury can be painful and frustrating, but it can be successfully treated – often without surgery.

In this blog, Dr. Ather Mirza and Dr. Justin Mirza, Long Island-based orthopedic physicians at Mirza Orthopedics, explain more about tennis elbow, including whether it can affect other body parts such as your shoulder.

What is tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow is an injury that causes the tendons that join the forearm muscles on the outside of the elbow to become painful. This type of injury affects the muscles that extend the wrist and fingers.

What causes tennis elbow?

In some cases, the cause of tennis elbow is unknown, but in many cases, it’s caused by one or more of the following:

  • Overuse – When you overuse the muscle that helps stabilize your wrist when your elbow is straight, it can become weak and develop tears in the tendon. This can occur in tennis players, but also among other people who tend to overuse this muscle through repetitive motion. They include painters, carpenters, auto workers, and cooks.
  • Age – You can get tennis elbow at any age, but most people who get it are between the ages of 30 and 50.
  • Improper equipment and technique – If you play a racket sport such as tennis, using improper equipment and incorrect technique as you strike the ball, this can make you more prone to developing tennis elbow.

What are common tennis elbow symptoms?

Tennis elbow symptoms are often related to pain, which usually starts gradually and worsens over weeks or months. If your tennis elbow symptoms last for more than three months, your tennis elbow is considered chronic.

Pain associated with tennis elbow can often have the following characteristics:

  • Starts as a dull ache, burning, or soreness on the outer elbow
  • Progresses so that pain occurs with any movement, especially when you grasp or twist objects
  • Increases in the evening and interferes with sleep
  • Makes your elbow feel stiff in the morning

Can tennis elbow affect your shoulder?

Tennis elbow symptoms aren’t limited to your elbow. Pain can spread to other areas, such as your shoulder. In addition, your shoulder can become sore as your body tries to compensate for your elbow’s lack of movement and strength.

What are the treatment options?

Many cases can be treated without surgery, particularly if you receive treatment as soon as symptoms appear. Common non-surgical treatments include:

  • Rest – Taking a break from sports or work activities can help, as can wearing a brace over the back of your forearm.
  • Applying ice or cold packs to relieve pain – Use them for 10 to 15 minutes several times a day, and make sure to put a washcloth in between your skin and the ice.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications – Medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin may help reduce pain and swelling.
  • Physical therapy – Exercises can help decrease your pain and increase your range of motion.
  • Corticosteroid injections – These can help relieve pain and inflammation.
  • Surgery – If more conservative treatments don’t provide enough relief, surgery may be considered. Most tennis elbow surgeries are performed to remove diseased muscle and reattach healthy muscle to the bone.

If you’re experiencing tennis elbow symptoms, schedule an appointment today with Mirza Orthopedics by calling (631) 361-5302. We specialize in the latest nonsurgical and minimally invasive surgical options that can help relieve your pain and restore your active lifestyle.

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