When it comes to tennis elbow, what’s the best treatment available? To find out the answer, take a look at our guide now!
1 to 3% of the country’s population develop tennis elbow at some point. Despite the name, this condition isn’t exclusive to tennis players.
Also known as lateral epicondylitis, this condition usually affects individuals age 40 and up. Repetitive, eccentric wrist motions can increase your chances of developing tennis elbow. In other words, you can develop tennis elbow without ever picking up a racket.
What exactly is lateral epicondylitis, and what tennis elbow treatment is best for your condition?
Keep reading to find out!
What is Tennis Elbow?
First, it’s important to understand the condition to determine if you’ve developed tennis elbow over time.
Tennis elbow is a type of tendinitis (a swelling of the tendons) that causes pain in the arm and elbow. Tendons are a band of tissue that connects muscles to bone.
Over time, your tendons will start to weaken. Each time you move your forearm muscles, you’ll start to experience pain.
The pain is usually focused around the outside of your arm where the elbow meets your forearm. When you repeat certain motions, it’s possible for the tendons in your extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) muscle to develop small tears.
The tears you develop can cause stress across the rest of your arm. As a result, you might experience pain when you lift or grip items. Without treatment, the pain could last into your old age.
Tennis elbow is a common injury. In most cases, it only requires minor treatment. However, you’ll still need time for your body to rest and heal.
It takes years for you to develop tennis elbow. Over time, repetitive motions (including gripping a racket during a swing) will put a strain on your arm muscles. Too much stress on your tendons will then cause the microscope tissue tears.
You can develop tennis elbow from playing:
Certain jobs or hobbies that require repetitive arm movements or gripping can lead to tennis elbow as well, including:
You can also develop this condition from repetitive weight lifting.
If you’ve developed tennis elbow, you’ll first experience pain and tenderness in the bony knob along the outside of your elbow. This knob is where the injured tendons connect to your arm bone. In some cases, pain can also radiate into the upper or lower arm.
Though the damage occurs to your elbow, you’re most likely to experience this pain when using your hands. The pain can increase when you:
- Open a door
- Shake hands
- Make a fist
- Grip an object
- Lift an object
- Raise your hand
- Straighten your wrist
In order to diagnose your tennis elbow, a doctor will complete a thorough body exam. They’ll likely ask you to flex your arm,w rise, or elbow.
You might also require image testing such as an MRI or X-ray.
Spontaneous recovery only occurs in 80 to 90% of patients. Instead of depending on spontaneous recovery, there are a few treatment options that can help you avoid tennis elbow surgery.
For the most part, try to give your elbow a break. Review some of the activities that can cause tennis elbow above and limit your activity.
In the meantime, try icing your elbow for 20 to 30 minutes every three to four hours. Ice can help reduce swelling and inflammation. Inflammation is your body’s natural response to illness or injury and can often cause painful symptoms.
A tennis elbow strap might also help. A strap can protect your injured tendon from further strain, which will prolong the condition.
If you’re in a lot of pain, try taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) drugs. This can include naproxen, aspirin, or ibuprofen. NSAIDs will help reduce pain and swelling.
However, it’s important to note these drugs can sometimes try side effects. Use them occasionally. Speak with your doctor if you’re taking other medications to avoid harmful side effects.
There is a range of tennis elbow exercises you can try, too.
Range of motion exercises can help increase your flexibility and reduce stiffness. Your doctor might recommend that you repeat these exercises three to five times a day.
For additional help, consider visiting a physical therapist. Physical therapy can help strengthen and stretch your muscles. An experienced physical therapist can also help you develop healthy habits to ensure you avoid unnecessary strain.
Regenerative medicine is also an effective treatment option that can help you avoid surgery. Therapies such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and stem cells can help enhance your body’s natural ability to heal. These therapies are able to help acute, subacute, and chronic injuries.
The healing process will help restore function to the damaged tissues in your elbow.
The process requires using your own tissue to begin the healing process. With this option, you can avoid surgery and other complications.
Types of Surgery
For extreme cases, your doctor might suggest tennis elbow surgery to remove the damaged tendon. Surgery can help ease your pain and improve your range of motion.
There are two ways to perform the necessary surgery: open surgery or arthroscopy. You can remain awake or go to sleep for either procedure. However, your doctor might have a preference depending on your condition.
Your doctor can also offer medicine to ensure you don’t feel pain during the procedure.
During open surgery, your surgeon will make a cut above the bone alongside your elbow. The surgeon will remove the damaged piece of tendon. Then, they’ll reattach the healthy part back to the bone.
Your surgeon might also remove a small piece of bone during the surgery. Removing bone from your elbow could improve blood flow and speed up the recovery process.
During arthroscopic surgery, your surgery will make a few tiny cuts in the skin over your elbow. This procedure requires very small instruments and a camera to go into the holes. As with open surgery, your surgery will remove the damaged parts of your tendon to reduce your pain.
After either procedure, your surgeon will close the opening in your arm with sutures or staples. Then, they’ll cover the wound with a bandage and dressing.
You should be able to return home the same day as your surgery.
There are a few complications to consider before choosing the surgical option, including reduced strength, infection, or nerve damage. Make sure to review these complications with your doctor beforehand.
Tennis Elbow: Your Options for Treatment and Pain Relief
Are you experiencing tennis elbow? If you are, there is a range of tennis elbow treatment options to help you ease the pain away.
Interested in exploring your regenerative medicine options? Contact us today to learn more!