Tennis Elbow: Not Just for Tennis Players
Even if you don’t know the difference between a lob and a volley and equate love with hugs and kisses rather than keeping score, you can still develop tennis elbow. Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) occurs when the tendons that attach the forearm bone to the outer portion of the elbow become weakened, due to overuse or trauma, placing extra stress on the arm, forearm, and hand muscles. The result is pain (usually pain that increases gradually over time) around the outer elbow. If your outer elbow is tender when you touch it and you experience pain that radiates from the elbow down to the hand when you grip or lift an object, you may have tennis elbow.
Why is it Called Tennis Elbow?
Anyone that participates in activities requiring repetitive use of the hand, elbow, arm, or wrist is at risk of developing tennis elbow, but the condition is especially common in tennis players. By one estimate, half of all tennis players will develop tennis elbow at some point. Many baseball players, bowlers, gardeners, and even assembly-line workers also develop this painful condition, though. You need not be an athlete to develop tennis elbow.
Tennis Elbow Treatments
Fortunately, surgery is not necessary to treat most cases of tennis elbow (surgery is recommended only in extreme, long-lasting cases and involves removal of the damaged tendon tissue). The following treatments are far more common and usually effective:
- Physical therapy, including exercises to stretch and strengthen your forearm muscles
- Forearm bracing
- Cold therapy (ice)
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Steroid injections
- Cortisone (applied topically or via injection)
- Shockwave (ultrasonic) therapy - Using ultrasound as a guide, a doctor inserts a needle into the damaged tendon. The needle vibrates, liquefying the damaged tissue so it can be suctioned out.
In cases of tennis elbow that are, in fact, caused by playing tennis, the following changes can bring relief:
- Switching from an oversized to midsized racquet
- Using a looser string tension to reduce torque and vibrations that can cause injury
- Wearing an elbow brace while playing
If you’re experiencing pain and tenderness that extends from your outer elbow down to your hand, contact us at Greater Austin Orthopaedics. Our South Austin, Southwest Austin, North Austin, and Lockhart physicians are trained to diagnose and treat tennis elbow and other repetitive-use injuries so you can get back to doing what you love. For skilled sports medicine care, call Greater Austin Orthopaedics today to schedule a consultation.