Tennis elbow, medically known as lateral epicondylitis, occurs when the forearm muscles that connect to the outside of your elbow become irritated. This irritation results in pain and tenderness that’s usually located on the outside (lateral) part of the elbow. Oftentimes, there’s also pain when gripping and carrying objects. The pain may also extend into the back of the forearm. Onset of symptoms is generally gradual although they may appear suddenly and be misinterpreted as an injury.
Who might get tennis elbow?
Contrary to its name, tennis elbow is not exclusive to tennis players. Anyone engaging in repetitive activities that extensively involve the forearms, wrists, or hands can develop this condition. Tennis elbow can impact both recreational and professional individuals:
- Baseball and softball players.
- Racquetball, tennis, squash and pickleball players.
People who work in certain professions are also more prone to tennis elbow:
- Assembly line workers and auto mechanics.
- Butchers and chefs.
- Gardeners and landscapers.
However, often tennis elbow has no clear cause.
When should I call the doctor?
While rest and over-the-counter medication can help manage the pain and inflammation associated with tennis elbow, it is advisable to undergo a comprehensive evaluation to exclude the possibility of a more significant injury, such as a muscle or tendon tear. If the pain is persistent or becomes severe, lasting beyond 2 weeks, please contact us to schedule an appointment with a doctor. With appropriate treatment, you can confidently resume your work or favorite activities, free from pain.
- Difficulty moving your arm, extending it or holding items.
- Red, swollen joints, or a bump or bulge on your elbow.
- Severe pain that interferes with sleep or daily activities.
During your visit you may want to ask Dr. Kaila:
- Why did I get tennis elbow?
- What is the best treatment for tennis elbow?
- What changes should I make to manage symptoms?
- What changes should I make to prevent the problem from happening again?
- Should I watch for signs of complications?
What Could be Causing Tennis Elbow?
Repetitive arm movements can induce fatigue in your forearm muscles. A sole tendon connects these muscles to the bony protrusion on the outer side of your elbow, known as the lateral epicondyle. As the muscle tires, the tendon assumes a greater load, resulting in overloading that can trigger microtears, inflammation and pain, referred to as tendinitis. Over time, this strain can contribute to a degenerative state called tendinosis. The combination of tendinitis and tendinosis may eventually lead to tendon tears.
In some instances, a sudden arm or elbow injury can be the cause of tennis elbow. Occasionally, individuals develop the condition without any discernible reason, a phenomenon known as idiopathic tennis elbow.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow is usually the result of overuse. Symptoms tend to come on slowly. Tennis elbow soreness, dull or even sharp pain may get worse over weeks and months. Signs of tennis elbow include:
- Burning or pain on your outer elbow that may irradiate (travel or spread) to your wrist. These sensations may get worse at night.
- Discomfort, soreness or pain when rotating or flexing your arm, such as when turning a doorknob or opening a jar.
- Stiffness or pain when extending your arm.
- Swollen elbow joint that’s tender to touch.
- Diminished grip strength when attempting to hold objects like a racquet, wrench, pen, or someone’s hand.
Diagnosis and Tests
Dr. Kaila performs a physical exam to check for elbow joint pain, swelling and stiffness. She may also ask about activities that can cause pain.
To determine if you have tennis elbow, Dr. Kaila may conduct one or more of the following tests:
- X-rays to rule out conditions like an elbow join injury, arthritis or a broken bone.
- Imaging tests, including ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans, assess tendon and muscle damage. Imaging is rarely necessary, however.
- Electromyography (EMG) checks for compressed nerves by measuring muscle and nerve electrical activity.
Dr. Kaila will test a range of motions with the arm before asking about the location and nature of the pain. An MRI may be required if the outer elbow pain does not respond to conservative treatment after a year. MRI gives a more detailed image than an X-ray, as it includes the soft tissues, muscles, and tendons inside the arm.
Next Reading: Tennis Elbow Tests
Tennis Elbow Treatment & Management
Pain from tennis elbow can make it hard to work or do physical activities. The condition can also affect your grip, which can make it difficult to grasp items. In general, tennis elbow doesn’t cause serious, long-term problems.
Tennis elbow may improve on its own with minimal or no treatment. However, the recovery period for tennis elbow, also known as healing time, can range from 3 to up to 18 months. Proven therapies for tennis elbow exist that can expedite the healing process and facilitate recovery.
Optimal Care for Tennis Elbow Recovery
Central Park Chiropractic employs proven strategies to alleviate pain and address various symptoms associated with tennis elbow, ensuring an enhanced and effective healing process.
Non-surgical tennis elbow treatment include:
- Rest: Take a break from activities that strain the affected tendons, allowing them the time needed to heal and recover.
- Chiropractic Active Physical Therapy: Engage in targeted exercises designed to strengthen forearm muscles and improve your grip.
- Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy: Sound waves can break up scar tissue, facilitating improved blood flow to the affected area.
- Braces: Experience support and relief with a removable counterforce brace recommended by your healthcare provider. This innovative tool alleviates tension on tendons and muscles, promoting healing.
- Massage: Additional techniques such as massage, ultrasound, and muscle stimulation contribute to pain reduction and enhanced functionality.
Experience a tailored and evidence-based approach to tennis elbow recovery. Trust our expertise to guide you towards relief and improved functionality.
Tennis Elbow Prognosis:
Wondering about the outlook for individuals with tennis elbow? Around 95% of those affected experience improvement through nonsurgical treatments, enabling them to resume their regular activities.
Next Reading: Tennis Elbow Prevention & Recovery Exercises