Tennis elbow is basically an inflammation of the tissues in the elbow area. It plagues many racquet players and golfers, both amateur and professional. While tennis elbow is most common in these sports, the problem can occur with anyone who uses the arm excessively and is most common between the ages of 35 and 55 years. Tennis elbow involves the muscles and tendons that extend (bend back) the wrist and fingers. Typically the pain from tennis elbow occurs on the outside of the elbow. Similar symptoms can occur on the inside of the elbow which is known as medial epicondylitis or golfer’s elbow.
The mainstays of treatment for tennis elbow are rest, ice and stretching. In addition to these, physiotherapy, medications, braces, injections and/or surgery may be required. If the precipitating cause of the tennis elbow is avoided, then treatment usually lasts about three months.
Continuing activity while experiencing the pain from tennis elbow aggravates the condition.
Ice the elbow at least three times a day for fifteen minutes each time in the early painful stage. Also ice the elbow after any activity using the arm.
Stretching the inflamed area will break down any scar tissue that develops with inflammation and hopefully will prevent further scar tissue from forming.
Initially, the physiotherapist will reduce the inflammation in your arm and later on move on to strengthening the muscles, both to protect the inflamed area and to prevent the injury from happening again. The programme will start with eccentric exercises and progress to concentric strengthening prior to returning to your previous activity level.
An injection of local anaesthetic and corticosteroid is a supplement to other treatments. It can make physiotherapy more effective and acts as an anti-inflammatory measure. If this fails then a technique taking blood from one arm and injecting it into the painful area of the other arm is often effective at curing the condition (known as autologous blood injection).
Initially you may have to refrain from racquet sports or repetitive work activities altogether. The initial period of rest is critical in the healing process for tennis elbow and return to sport should only take place after modification of equipment.
Surgery is rarely required unless the tennis elbow has been present for more than twelve months. Surgery is very effective at relieving the pain of tennis elbow, however, almost all patients are left with a minor residual weakness in the surgically released arm. Return to sport can be delayed for 3 to 6 months following the surgery. Minor recurrences of symptoms are common but are usually much less severe than before the operation which can be done arthroscopically or with open surgery.
We recommend you are treated by one of our sports medicine physicians prior ro considering an appointment with one of our Orthopaedic surgeons.