At Rebound, we see many patients who seek treatment for overuse injuries, several of which include conditions affecting the tendons and muscles. Tennis elbow is a condition that typically develops from placing stress on the muscles and tendons during sports or activities that involve the use of the forearm and elbow. Learn more about tennis elbow causes and treatments from one of our shoulder and elbow expert!
What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a type of tendonitis that causes pain in the elbow and forearm.
This condition affects the muscles and tendons in your forearm, particularly the tendons that are attached to the forearm muscles and extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) muscle. Like with many overuse injuries, the tendons and muscles become inflamed, causing pain and discomfort.
What Causes Tennis Elbow?
Tennis isn’t always the culprit for this form of tendonitis. Repetitive and strenuous use of the forearm in other sports like golf and racquetball often contribute to this condition as well. Age may also be a contributing factor in developing tennis elbow.
“When we place too much stress on our elbows’ muscles and tendons, we create very small tears called ‘micro tears’” says Dr. Gregory Gramstad, Rebound orthopedic surgeon with fellowship training in shoulder and elbow surgery. “Moving your arm in the same motion repeatedly, like in tennis, plays a big role in the damage. The pain you feel when extending your arm and gripping or picking up objects occurs in the lateral epicondyle, where the tendons attach.”
Tennis elbow typically occurs in your dominant arm. For instance, if you primarily use your right arm for recreational sports, activities and daily use, your right arm is more susceptible. While the dominant arm is more likely to be affected, both arms can suffer from this form of elbow tendonitis.
What are Some Common Symptoms of Tennis Elbow?
- Elbow pain or burning sensation
- Difficulty gripping or weakness
- Pain the extends to the forearm and wrist
What are the Treatment Options for Tennis Elbow?
Rebound offers non-surgical and surgical treatment methods for tennis elbow. One of our shoulder and elbow specialists will perform an examination and discuss your medical history prior to diagnosis. An x-ray, MRI or EMG may be part of your examination, in order to rule out arthritis, herniated disk or nerve compression. These conditions share symptoms often associated with tennis elbow.
“As with many overuse injuries, one particular treatment method does not work for everyone. A significant number of patients are able to recover without surgery, simply from a combination of rest or decreased activity and physical therapy,” says Dr. Gramstad.
Stretching and strengthening the muscles through physical therapy exercises are often an effective form of treatment for overuse injuries, depending on the severity. Other forms of non-surgical treatment include bracing, anti-inflammatory medicine and steroid injections.
“Should your symptoms persist after exhausting non-surgical methods, we will explore surgery options, whether it be an arthroscopic procedure or open surgery procedure,” says Dr. Gramstad. “During surgery, we remove damaged portions of the muscle.”
How Do You Prevent Tennis Elbow?
“Like with any sport or recreational activity, we stress the importance of warming up, conditioning and focusing on technique. Preparing your tendons and muscles for activity can help prevent injury,” says Dr. Gramstad.
When tendons and muscles have been warmed up, they are able to stretch and move more fluidly, helping to avoid strains or tears. Our physical therapists and athletic trainers can work with you on an injury prevention program to help you improve technique, form and strength.
If you’re experiencing tennis elbow symptoms or other symptoms of tendonitis, do not hesitate to make an appointment with one of our shoulder and elbow specialists. You may conveniently book an appointment online or call 1-800-REBOUND.