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Tennis Elbow: An Overview

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Tennis Elbow: An Overview

A painful condition that can lead to chronic pain, tennis elbow is the result of overworked tendons in the elbow. The condition is associated with repetitive motions made with the arm and wrist, which causes tiny tears in the tendons. Pain from tennis elbow is usually centralized in the elbow, but can spread to the wrist and forearm, making it difficult to do things such as hold cups or turn doorknobs.

Like the name suggests, tennis elbow is often seen in tennis players due to their constant swinging movements. However, it can also be experienced by individuals who do not play tennis, but participate in other activities that involve repetitive motions, such as painters, plumbers, and butchers. Tennis elbow is most common in adults 30 to 50 years of age.

How can I manage tennis elbow at home?

Many patients find relief from tennis elbow through rest and over the counter pain medications. You can also try icing your elbow for 20 minutes at a time a few times a day. You should see your doctor or orthopedic surgeon if you are not able to manage the pain at home.

What can I expect for treatment?

To determine whether or not you are experiencing tennis elbow, your doctor will ask you questions about your pain, including its intensity, when you first noticed it, and which activities make it worse. A physical exam and diagnostic imaging tests, like x-rays, might also be performed.

Your doctor could suggest physical therapy to strengthen and stretch the muscles in your arm, or recommend a specialized brace to wear on your forearm to reduce stress.

If no conservative methods are working, your doctor may need to perform surgery to remove damaged tissue. Surgery to correct tennis elbow can be performed with a minimally invasive approach to reduce recovery time.

How do I keep tennis elbow from returning?

Once you have successfully managed the pain associated with tennis elbow, it is necessary to find ways to prevent the condition from resurfacing. Part of your treatment with your orthopedic surgeon will include therapy designed to help you avoid repetitive motions in the future. This therapy may require you to teach yourself how to perform differently at your job in order to keep the pain at bay.