The term “tennis elbow” is used for specific pain on the outside of the elbow that does not have to be caused by playing tennis! The medical term for tennis elbow is lateral epicondylitis. Lateral epicondylitis is inflammation of the tendons that insert over a bony landmark on the humerus. All of the muscles that extend the fingers and wrist insert in that area and can become inflamed and injured from overuse.
It was termed tennis elbow due to the pain created from gripping a tennis racket repeatedly. But we see it in many situations. Someone who does a lot of work on the computer, a job that requires a lot of repeated movements like pipe fitting or wire cutting, and even rock climbing. It may be a gradual onset of pain that becomes persistent. You may notice weakness with gripping, and lifting something as simple as a coffee cup or turning a door knob. There may be minimal to no swelling and the pain can be sharp or dull.
If the pain persists, it is time to see your friendly neighborhood orthopedic provider! We can do a full evaluation and X-rays to look for any underlying bony changes. First line treatment is typically conservative including rest, ice, and oral anti-inflammatories. Physical therapy can be very beneficial to treat this condition and help prevent recurrence. Counterforce bracing is effective to help take the tension off of the tendon insertion point and allow you to be active with minimal pain.
Further diagnostic testing can be done if symptoms do not responded well to conservative care. Diagnostic ultrasound has been very effective to aid in diagnosis of tennis elbow. We can see the quality of the tendon on ultrasound which can help guide our treatment plan. Sports and Orthopedic Specialists offers in-office diagnostic ultrasound with same day follow up to review you results. We can also do ultrasound guided corticosteroid injections to help with your pain.
If conservative measures do not work, or your symptoms continue to come back, surgical options can be considered. Ultrasound has been very helpful to see if you are a candidate for in a minimally invasive procedure called TENEX. This procedure that uses ultrasonic energy to safely breakdown and remove the damaged tendon tissue. You can click on the link on our website to read all about the TENEX procedure.
In more severe cases, elbow arthroscopy may be required for a tendon release which we also provide at SOS. It is an outpatient orthopedic surgery that is done at hospital or surgery center. We are happy to see you for all of your elbow needs at Sports and Orthopedic specialists and can help determine the best course of action to get you back to your winning lifestyle!
Written by Nicole M. D’Apice PA-C