Tennis Elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a condition that involves the tendons that surround the outside of the elbow. These tendons connect muscle to bone and assist both the wrist and fingers in movement. Under the right circumstances, these tendons can become worn and torn, placing strain on the muscles.
Individuals with tennis elbow typically complain of pain around their elbow, usually on the bony point (lateral epicondyle) just above the outside of the elbow. This area may be tender to touch along with the muscle on the back of the forearm. Patients may report weakness and an inability to perform their normal activities of daily living, such as lifting a cup of coffee, holding a grocery bag, or pulling up a blanket.
So, what causes tennis elbow? Many patients diagnosed with tennis elbow have never played tennis at all! Repetitive activities, such as gripping or grasping movements, can strain the tendon.
If you suspect that you have tennis elbow, start by making an appointment with your physician. They may order anti-inflammatory medications, administer a steroid injection into the painful area, or provide a referral to a certified hand therapist. Surgery is often only considered if the pain is severe, and/or symptoms have been present for six months or longer without any relief. The most common approach to treating tennis elbow is conservative (nonsurgical) management.
A hand therapist can provide conservative management for the treatment of tennis elbow, with the goal of return to normal home, work, and sports/leisure activities. Your therapist will identify what activities might aggravate symptoms and discuss activity modifications. A custom-fabricated brace or orthosis for the wrist at night may be recommended to rest the area of irritation. Various treatments can be utilized, such as heat, ice, ultrasound, or massage if needed. Your therapist will often prescribe stretching and strengthening exercises. Surgery is a last resort for tennis elbow and therapy is often recommended after surgery to regain range of motion and strength.
Our team has significant experience in treating Tennis Elbow and have seen many excellent outcomes after treatment.