Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis is a tendonitis of the outside portion of the elbow. These tendons connect to the main muscles that straighten the wrist and fingers.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the symptoms of Tennis Elbow?
People with lateral epicondylitis will complain of varying amounts of pain on the outside of the elbow. While usually worse with use of the arm, lateral epicondylitis can be so painful that symptoms may be present at rest and sometimes awaken you at night. While the pain is usually right over the bony prominence on the outside of the elbow, the discomfort may radiate up your arm towards the shoulder, or down your arm towards the hand. Activities that aggravate the pain include lifting with the palm facing down or straightening the wrist.
What causes Tennis Elbow?
The actual cause of lateral epicondylitis is not completely understood. It is believed that the process is a combination of an inflammatory as well as degenerative process.
What can be done?
The initial treatment for tennis elbow is usually conservative or non-surgical. Activity modification is one of the most important mainstays of non-surgical treatment. To rest the muscles and tendons that are irritated, you should always lift with the palm facing up. This takes the stress off of the inflamed tendons. Even after successful treatment, both non-surgical and surgical, it is important to adhere to this basic rule. Stretching the irritated tendons is also effective at reducing the pain and a tennis elbow 'strap' may also be helpful. While oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) may be helpful, the most effective initial non-surgical treatment is a cortisone injection into the inflamed area. Multiple injections are not advised.
Once non-surgical treatment has been exhausted, excellent surgical treatment exists for treatment of tennis elbow. A lateral release/ lateral epicondylectomy consists of releasing the inflamed tendons from the attachment to bone, as well as removing a small piece of bone. Surgical treatment consists of a short procedure done in the operating room on an out patient basis (you go home the same day). After the operation, the arm is placed in a splint for approximately 7-10 days, followed by physical therapy.