What is Tennis Elbow?

What is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a painful condition affecting the outer part of the elbow, usually caused by overuse. While playing tennis could cause this condition, there are many other sports, activities, or even work-related tasks that can cause this painful condition.

Symptoms:
The most prevalent symptom is pain or burning on the outer part of your elbow that may radiate into your forearm and wrist. You may also experience weakness in grip strength. The symptoms often start gradually and get progressively worse over weeks and months. Many people cannot recall any specific injury which brought on the symptoms. If left untreated, the pain can get quite severe and make it difficult to do simple things like opening doors or holding a coffee cup.
Causes:
Tennis elbow is usually caused by overuse of the forearm muscles that control wrist movements. When these muscles are weakened from overuse, microscopic tears can form in the tendon where it attaches to the elbow causing inflammation and pain. Some common actions that can cause tennis elbow include painting, using a screwdriver, cutting up food ingredients, or even repetitive computer mouse use.

Risk Factors:
The main risk factors for developing tennis elbow include:
– Age: tennis elbow is most common in adults between the ages of 30 and 50.
– Occupation: people with jobs that involve repetitive motions of the wrist and arm are more likely to develop tennis elbow. Some examples include plumbers, painters, carpenters and butchers.
– Sports: racket sports may increase the risk of tennis elbow

Diagnosis:
A health care practitioner will apply pressure to the affected area and ask you to move your elbow, wrist, and hand in various ways to diagnose tennis elbow. In many cases, the history and physical exam are enough to diagnose this condition. If your doctor suspects that something else may be going on, they may suggest x-rays or other imaging to rule out other conditions.

Treatment:
The vast majority of cases of tennis elbow are managed conservatively. Severe cases which do not respond to usual treatment may require surgery.
• Rest: the first step is giving your arm proper rest, which may mean taking a break from sports or heavy/repetitive work activities for a few weeks
• Physiotherapy: specific exercises are very helpful for strengthening the forearm muscles. Your therapist may also use other treatment techniques to improve muscle healing and decrease pain and inflammation.
• Brace: Using a brace centred over the back of the forearm can also relieve symptoms by resting the muscles and tendons.
• Injections: if your doctor feels it is appropriate for you, they may suggest a cortisone injection to relieve the pain. A newer type of injection, known as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is also being investigated for its effectiveness in speeding the healing of tendon injuries. While more research is needed to fully prove its effectiveness, the current research is very promising.
• Extracorporeal shockwave therapy: shock wave therapy uses sound waves to create microtrauma with the goal of promoting your body’s natural healing process.
• Surgical treatment: if symptoms do not respond after 6 to 12 months of nonsurgical treatments, you may be a candidate for surgery. Your doctor will discuss the potential risks and benefits of the procedure and together you will decide whether this is the right next step for you.

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