Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a condition that causes pain where the tendons of your forearm muscles attach to the bony bump on the outside of the elbow. While a common injury among tennis players, it is not limited to athletes. Like golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis), tennis elbow results from excessive or repeated use of the tendons in your forearm.
While tennis elbow is a frustrating and painful condition, the good news is that conservative treatments are effective at improving symptoms for most patients. The first step to getting back to your normal activities pain-free is to schedule an appointment at Mirza Orthopedics. We are the premier orthopedic hand, wrist, elbow & shoulder center on Long Island, serving active patients of all ages from Suffolk County, Nassau County and beyond. You can make an appointment by filling out the form on this page.
What causes tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow is caused by damage to the tendons connected to the outer (lateral) side of your elbow due to repetitive stress and overuse. Most cases of tennis elbow deal with damage to one forearm muscle in particular, called the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) muscle. Repetitive use, such as hitting ground strokes on the tennis court, can weaken the muscle and can create microscopic tears in the tendon where it attaches to the lateral epicondyle.
You may be more likely to develop lateral epicondylitis if:
- You are between the ages of 30 and 50
- You regularly play tennis and/or participate in activities that require repetitive or vigorous use of the forearm muscles
- Your occupation requires repetitive use of your forearm muscles – painters, plumbers, carpenters, and autoworkers are particularly prone to developing tennis elbow
- You have improper form, grip, or technique when playing tennis
While lateral epicondylitis is a common injury among tennis players, athletes are not the only ones at risk for developing this condition.
What are the symptoms of tennis elbow?
If you have tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) you will likely experience:
- Pain and tenderness on the outside of the upper arm near the elbow
- Pain that radiates into the forearm and wrist
- Weakness, particularly when performing gripping or twisting motions
Tennis elbow symptoms usually develop gradually over the course of several weeks or months. Symptoms are often worse after any activity involving the forearm. It is commonly seen in the dominant arm, but it can affect the non-dominant arm or both arms.
What does treatment for tennis elbow entail?
For many patients, treatment for lateral epicondylitis / tennis elbow can be entirely treated with conservative measures, including:
- Applying ice
- Taking anti-inflammatory medications
- Wearing a brace centered over the back of your forearm
- Completing stretching and strengthening exercises
- Getting platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy
- Adjusting form or technique in your tennis game or occupational tasks to reduce the amount of stress placed on the injured tendons
Surgical treatment for tennis elbow / lateral epicondylitis is seldom necessary. But if your symptoms don’t respond to conservative treatment in six months to a year, surgery may be an option. The type of surgery performed typically involves removing damaged muscle and reattaching the healthy muscle to your bone, which can often be done arthroscopically via small incisions.
If you are suffering from the symptoms of lateral epicondylitis, the first step to relieving your discomfort is to have a consultation with our Smithtown orthopedic practice that specializes in tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) treatment to learn about your options. Contact Mirza Orthopedics today to schedule an appointment.