Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)

While tennis elbow is common with tennis players, it is seen across a broad swath of the population. 

If you’re dealing with elbow pain, you might be struggling with tennis elbow. Dr. John Andrachuk can help. With years of experience treating tennis elbow and other injuries, Dr. Andrachuk is the right Orthopedic Sports Medicine surgeon in Atlanta for you.

What is Tennis Elbow?

The inflammation or micro-tearing of the tendons in the arm used to join the forearm muscles to the outside of the elbow is known as tennis elbow. When the tendons and muscle becomes damaged, due to overuse, it can lead to serious pain and tenderness. Tennis elbow is also known as lateral epicondylitis.

Tennis Elbow Symptoms

The main symptom associated with tennis elbow is pain in the elbow and forearm. The pain can almost be like a burning sensation on the outer part of the elbow. Tennis elbow may also cause a weaker than normal grip and more pain at night than other times of the day.

The symptoms of lateral epicondylitis may also become worse with the use of the forearm or elbow. While it’s commonly found in the dominant arm, it’s possible for either arm to be affected by tennis elbow. 

Most Common Causes of Tennis Elbow or Lateral Epicondylitis

Tennis elbow is an overuse injury. It’s commonly caused by repetitive motion, such as swinging a tennis racket. While it certainly impacts athletes playing racquet sports, it’s not only found in athletes.

Any type of activity causing a person to repeat certain motions with the arm can lead to lateral epicondylitis. Some of the other motions commonly causing tennis elbow include:

  • Painting
  • Driving screws
  • Repetitive computer mouse use
  • Using plumbing tools
  • Cutting cooking ingredients, such as meat

Many adults can end up with tennis elbow due to the job they work or the hobbies they participate in regularly.

Most Common Risk Factors for Tennis Elbow

Of course, those at the highest risk of developing tennis elbow are those repeating specific motions daily or regularly. Some of the other risk factors include:

  • Age – Tennis elbow can impact anybody of any age, but it’s most common between the age of 30 and 50.
  • Sports – Any racket sport might put you at risk of developing tennis elbow, especially if you use poor technique.
  • Occupation – Certain jobs in the construction field, such as plumbers, carpenters, and painters are at risk of developing lateral epicondylitis. Butchers and cooks may also develop this injury.

If you fall into any of these categories, you’re at a higher risk of developing tennis elbow.

How Tennis Elbow is Diagnosed

A physical exam is common for your doctor to diagnose tennis elbow. It’s common for this exam to include your doctor applying pressure to the affected area and asking you to move your fingers, wrist, or elbow in different ways.

It’s also common for your doctor to ask questions about how the injury may have occurred and your medical history. Often, this is enough to diagnose the injury.

However, in some cases, your doctor might order X-rays or other imaging tests to rule out other possible injuries to your arm and elbow area. Along with X-rays, MRI scans and EMGs might be used to rule out other types of injuries.

Lateral Epicondylitis Treatment

Treatment for tennis elbow can be done without surgery or with surgery. It’s common for treatment to involve some type of physical therapy, along with other treatment options. Some of the common non-surgical treatment options include:

  • Rest – Your doctor will likely tell you to rest your arm and let it heal. This will mean you will need to stop participating in activities that cause pain in the arm or at least decrease your participation.
  • Medication – Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen are commonly used to help reduce swelling and pain with tennis elbow.
  • Wearing a Brace – A brace can be used on the forearm to help relieve the symptoms of lateral epicondylitis. 
  • Steroid injections – Cortisone can be injected to help with the inflammation. 
  • Platelet-Rich Plasma – PRP is a bit of a newer treatment but may be used to help reduce the symptoms of tennis elbow.

The vast majority of tennis elbow injuries can be treated without surgery. However, for rare cases, surgery might be an option you can use to treat lateral epicondylitis.

Types of Tennis Elbow Lateral Epicondylitis Surgery

Usually, if your symptoms have not shown improvement in six to 12 months, you might need surgery to remove the damaged tissue. There are two procedures commonly used for tennis elbow:

  • TENEX Procedure or Ultrasonic tenotomy – This procedure includes using ultrasound guidance with a needle inserted through the skin to vibrate the area and remove the damaged tissue.
  • Open Surgery – A common option for removing the damaged tissues is an open surgery with an incision over the elbow.

Tennis Elbow / Lateral Epicondylitis Recovery

Recovery from tennis elbow varies depending on the severity of the damage and the treatment. If you have to go through surgical treatment, you might need to be in a splint for about a week. 

Physical therapy will likely last for several weeks, if not months to get you back to normal. Those undergoing surgery will likely be able to return to athletic activities in about four to six months. 

Schedule an Appointment Today!

Providing years of experience treating tennis elbow and many other injuries, Dr. Andrachuk can help relieve your pain. If you’ve been dealing with any of the symptoms of lateral epicondylitis, it’s time to seek medical help. Dr. Andrachuk offers both surgical and nonsurgical treatment options to help you get back to normal. Contact us today and schedule your in-person or telemedicine appointment!