Tennis Elbow: Symptoms & Treatment

Elbow Joint Structure: Where Tennis Elbow Occurs

Our elbow is made of the junction of 3 bones, ligaments, and elbow tendons attached to the bony bump. In the elbow joint, three bones come together: the upper arm and forearm bones.

Tennis elbow (Lateral epicondylitis) is a pain in the lateral epicondyle of the elbow. The lateral epicondyle is a protrusion located above the elbow outside the humerus.

During repetitive movements, the ERCB tendon (extensor carpi radialis brevis) begins to suffer from overload when lifting something with a straight hand. Small tears are formed in the common extensor tendon, causing inflammation and arm pain.

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Risk Factors

Risk Factors and Causes of Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow often affects weight-lifting athletes, tennis players, or people who do repetitive movements for more than two hours or put a lot of weight pressure on the arm.

Improper stroke technique in tennis or other racquet sports is developing tennis elbow. The dominant arm is more at risk, the right hand for right-handed people and the left for left-handed people. 

Another reason to get tennis elbow is inflammation disease like arthritis or congenital weakness of the ligament joint.

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Common Symptoms of Tennis Elbow

The symptoms of tennis elbow develop gradually. At first, you will feel strong, severe pain, which won't give you the opportunity to do anything. The pain occurs on the outside of the elbow. 

At this point, you need to reduce pain. You can use over-the-counter pain relievers, put on an ice pack, give your hand rest, and remove any tension.

The following symptoms are weakened grip strength, discomfort in forearm muscles, and a constant ache that seemed to extend throughout the upper arm bone.

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Tennis Elbow and Golfer's Elbow. What is The Difference?

Tennis elbow and golfer's elbow diseases are both about elbow pain. The tennis elbow affects the outside of the elbow, and the golfer's elbow pain affects the inside.

Tennis elbow causes discomfort on the outside of the joint. Gradually, the sensations develop into pain, increasing when trying to straighten the fingers or turn the palm up. With a golfer's elbow, the pain is concentrated on the inside of the joint. The pain increases when trying to bend the hand.

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Examination and Prevention of Tennis Elbow

If you feel pain in the elbow, you need to visit specialists called physical therapists. The doctor makes a physical exam, and depending on the results, he will prescribe you an individual list of treatments. At first, it can be nonsurgical treatment; if in 6 months, it won’t help, the next step is tennis elbow surgery.

Blood flow and reducing pain is a crucial goal in your journey to prevent tennis elbow from becoming a chronic issue.

A balanced approach to training is the key to avoiding overuse injury.

If you do not use a quality tennis racket while playing tennis, the risk of getting tennis elbow will increase significantly.

Nonsurgical Treatment for Tennis Elbow

Before lying at the surgeon’s table, you must try nonsurgical treatments for the tennis elbow. The most common treatments include:

  • Proper rest for the hand, especially avoiding repetitive arm movements that trigger the pain

  • Physical therapy exercises

  • Muscle stimulating techniques

  • The elbow bends to support the hand and reduces the wrist extensors during active moves

  • Steroid injections and platelet-rich plasma to speed up muscle healing

  • Extracorporeal shock wave therapy helps destroy scar tissue and stimulates the recovery process

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)

The gradual strengthening exercises will help to prevent the repetition of the tennis elbow.

After Surgery

Methods to Treat Tennis Elbow After Surgery

Tennis elbow surgery involves removing diseased muscle and reattaching healthy muscle back. After lateral epicondylitis surgery, you may need a long period of healing and resting.

In the beginning, your arm will be in a sling. After some time, your doctor provides special treatment to heal your tennis elbow. The main thing is to give your arm proper rest.

It means delaying any activities with your hand, stopping doing the same motions, and forgetting for some period about racquet sport.

Physical therapy became a key component of your treatment plan, focusing on specific forearm muscles, wrist muscles, and overall arm movements.

Therapists may prescribe special treatment to increase blood flow and heal the tendon.

Hand muscles and forearm tendons will be areas of focus during your rehabilitation, aiming to improve muscle healing and tendon repair.

Further surgery rehabilitation includes using tennis balls and special equipment for stretching exercises.

If you are a fan of racquet sports, you will need to temporarily step away from the game to allow your arm the proper rest it needs.

Try some muscle rubs to soothe the overuse of the injured tendon, or exercise with a rolled-up towel.

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Forearm Muscles in Tennis Elbow

The specific forearm muscle takes part in lateral epicondylitis. The arm muscles split into anterior and posterior ligaments - the flexor and extensor of the arm. The tennis elbow appears on the anterior side of the elbow.

The median nerve supplies the posterior muscles and has a common origin on the epicondyle of the humerus. If these muscles are overused, it can cause inflammation, and you can get tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis).

The posterior forearm muscles extend the wrist and fingers and supinate the hand.

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A Few Words in the End

Anyone who does repetitive activities using the forearm or wrist can get tennis elbow.

Consult a professional for a proper elbow pain diagnosis, and explore alternatives to surgery. Taking the time to understand and heal tennis elbow relieves pain and provides valuable insights into preventing recurrence.

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