Tennis elbow is the common name used for the elbow condition called lateral epicondylitis. It is an overuse injury that causes inflammation of the tendons that attach to the bony prominence on the outside of the elbow (lateral epicondyle). It is a painful condition occurring from repeated muscle contractions at the forearm that leads to inflammation and micro tears in the tendons that attach to the lateral epicondyle. The condition is more common in sports activities such as tennis, painting, hammering, typing, gardening and playing musical instruments. Patients with tennis elbow experience elbow pain or burning that gradually worsens and a weakened grip
Your doctor will evaluate tennis elbow by reviewing your medical history, performing a thorough physical examination and ordering X-rays. MRI may be indicated in severe cases.
Your doctor will first recommend non-surgical treatment options to treat the tennis elbow symptoms. These may include:
- Limit use and rest the arm from activities that worsen symptoms.
- Splints or braces may be ordered to decrease stress on the injured tissues.
- Apply ice packs on the elbow to reduce swelling.
- Anti-inflammatory medications and/or steroid injections may be ordered to treat pain and swelling.
- Physical therapy or home exercise program may be ordered for eccentric stretching exercises to the forearm
If non-surgical treatment options fail to resolve the condition and symptoms persist for 6 -12 months, your surgeon may recommend a surgical procedure to treat tennis elbow called lateral epicondyle debridement and repair surgery. Your surgeon moves aside soft tissue in order to view the extensor tendon and its attachment on the lateral epicondyle. The surgeon then trims the tendon and debrides the partial tears and then reattaches it to the bone. Any scar tissue present will be removed as well as any bone spurs. After the surgery is completed, the incision is closed. Return to full activities is usually 3 to 6 months after surgery.