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Also known as lateral epicondylitis, tennis elbow occurs when too much strain is placed on the tendons in your elbow and is usually caused by repeating the same motions with your wrist or arm over an extended period of time. Such motions damage your tendons, causing inflammation or tears that can be extremely painful.
What causes tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow occurs through repetitive use of the muscles in your forearm. As the tendons expand and contract through repeated movement, they may begin to tear and detach from the bones in your elbow.
Who is at risk for tennis elbow?
As you might guess, athletes—specifically tennis players—are most at risk for developing tennis elbow. Others that may develop the condition are painters, butchers, or construction workers. Essentially, any prolonged use of your forearm muscles, especially without proper technique or cooldown periods, may result in tennis elbow.
While your occupation is certainly a factor in increasing your risk of injury, age can also play a role. As we age, our muscles weaken, putting those between the ages of 30 to 50 most at risk of developing tennis elbow.
What are the symptoms of tennis elbow?
The pain caused by tennis elbow may not be isolated to just one area and may spread to your wrist or forearm. You may feel sore, and the area may be tender to the touch. You may also find it difficult to perform seemingly easy tasks, such as opening a door or picking up a cup.
What treatments can I try?
Usually, rest and over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen may be enough to relieve the symptoms of tennis elbow. You may also consider icing the affected area to reduce pain, inflammation, and swelling. If these self-care steps are not enough, however, it might be time to see a doctor. Physical therapy and nonsurgical interventions can help strengthen the muscles in your forearm to improve healing and help prevent tennis elbow. If the problem does not resolve within 6 to 12 months, though, your doctor may recommend surgery.
What can I expect from surgery?
This procedure involves removing affected muscles and reattaching healthy tendons back to the bone. Most tennis elbow surgeries are relatively quick and easy and do not require an overnight hospital stay. Your doctor will make an incision above the elbow to make any needed corrections before using sutures to close the wound.
What happens after surgery?
After surgery, your arm will most likely be kept in place using a splint to promote healing. After about a week, the stitches and splint can be removed. Over the next several months, you will focus on stretching and exercising your elbow to restore functionality and flexibility. It’s important to listen to your doctor’s advice on when you can return to regular athletic activity to prevent tennis elbow from occurring again!
Ready to Get Started?
If you or someone you know is suffering from tennis elbow and is looking for relief, contact CORE Medical & Wellness today at 888-521-0688 to learn more or schedule your appointment!
Dr. Richard Kang is double board certified in anesthesiology and pain medicine, and he completed an interventional pain medicine fellowship at the prestigious New York Presbyterian Hospital / Columbia University – College of Physicians and Surgeons. Read his full bio here.