Tennis elbow is a common disorder suffered by many. Although it is called tennis elbow, this can happen in anyone who performs repetitive gripping or lifting activities, not just tennis players.
Tennis elbow occurs equally in men and women, mainly between the ages of 35 to 50 years of age. People typically complain of pain along the outer part of the elbow, worse with lifting or wrist extension. They usually do not have any elbow motion problems or stiffness. On physical examination, people usually report tenderness over the bony prominence along the outer part of the elbow (lateral epicondyle). There are several treatment options depending on the severity of the problem.
Non-operative treatment: The hallmark of treatment involves modification of activities, including avoidance of activities, which involve prolonged gripping or torqueing, such as using a hammer or screwdriver. Wearing a tennis elbow brace also helps to support the extensor muscles in the forearm. Physical therapy is helpful in treating the symptoms. This involves massage, stretching and strengthening of the affected muscle groups. Finally, injection of a steroid into the painful area can help relieve symptoms, at least temporarily. This injection can be repeated one or two times if symptoms recur.
Surgical treatment: This is an option for people who don’t respond to the treatments above or who experience recurrent symptoms. The surgical procedure usually involves cleaning up of the painful area. The extensor tendons along the painful area can be debrided or lengthened to try and relieve inflammation. The majority of people experience improvement in their symptoms following surgery. Clerical work can be resumed after 2-4 weeks. Manual labor is restricted until 8-12 weeks after surgery.
Tennis elbow can be painful and debilitating. But, with proper evaluation and treatment, people can manage the symptoms and return to their normal activities.