Tennis elbow, known medically as lateral epicondylitis, occurs when your tendons, which are the strong tissues that connect your bones to your muscles, of your elbow are inflamed. The condition can occur whether or not you play tennis.
Any activity that causes you to overuse your muscles in your forearm can cause you to develop the condition due to the small tears and inflammation that develops. Besides playing tennis regularly, manual labor, knitting, raking, typing, cutting, and plumbing are other common activities that can spur the condition, particularly in people in the 30 to 50 age group. There are many others, however, that can lead you to develop the condition.
A less common cause of lateral epicondylitis is trauma. If you’ve had a direct hit to your elbow that resulted in swelling and inflammation, you may be more susceptible to developing an overuse injury, and tennis elbow as a result.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
Pain and weakness are the hallmark signs of tennis elbow However, you may also experience numbness and tingling, especially if you have a pinched nerve. With a pinched nerve, your nerve near or in your elbow is entrapped, causing not only elbow pain, but also tingling, numbness and weakness in the hand, wrist, and arm. The most common nerve that gets entrapped or pinched, at or near the elbow is your ulnar nerve.
Tennis Elbow Treatment
Some patients find that their symptoms go away on their own, but it could take up to a year.
Other people find that they need either conservative, non-surgical treatment to relieve their symptoms. These include:
- Modifying or eliminating the activity that caused the condition.
- Using medications, such as anti-inflammatories.
- Wearing a brace to reduce tension as the tendons heal.
- Getting physical therapy that includes stretching or strengthening exercises, as well as ultrasound therapy.
- Using heat, ice, or creams to comfort and heal.
- Getting steroid or cortisone injections directly into the affected area.
- Getting or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) or autologous blood injections (ABI), which involves withdrawing blood from an uninjured site to reinject it into the lateral epicondyle area.
Only when the pain you’re experiencing is incapacitating and hasn’t responded to conservative treatments over the last six to 12 months, is surgery considered. It involves removal of the degenerated, diseased tendon tissues in an outpatient center. Because of the inconsistent results of surgery for lateral epicondylitis, every effort is made to find successful conservative treatment before surgery is considered.
In most cases, the symptoms of tennis elbow improve over time, according to recent studies. If you are experiences elbow pain, weakness, and numbness and believe you might have tennis elbow, please give us a call here at the Florida Hand Center at 941-625-6547 in Port Charlotte or Fort Myers.