What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow is the common name for tendonitis of the elbow. Overuse causes inflammation of the tendons that attach forearm muscles to the arm bone. The resulting elbow pain and weakness can make grasping items and activities requiring repetitive motion difficult.
What causes tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow is caused by repetitive stress to the outside of the elbow. Certain activities can lead to this condition. People working in certain professions may be more prone to tennis elbow, such as:
What are the symptoms of tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow symptoms can include:
- Pain in and around the outside of elbow, sometimes leading to the wrist and hand
- Tightness/Stiffness along the inside of the elbow
- Numbness or tingling in the elbow, sometimes into the hand and fingers
What to Expect from Tennis Elbow Treatment
Relief from symptoms is often possible without surgery. After an examination, your doctor may recommend:
- Rest – stop sports and labor-intensive activities for several weeks.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines – over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin reduce pain and swelling.
- Physical therapy – specific exercises can help strengthen your forearm muscles. A physical therapist may perform an ultrasound, ice massage or use muscle-stimulation to improve healing.
- Brace – a brace worn centered over the back of the forearm allows the muscles and tendon to rest.
When to get tennis elbow surgery
If you still have pain after six to 12 months of treatment, tennis elbow surgery may be required to restore full use of your forearm and elbow.
Before surgery, you will have diagnostic imaging such as MRI, ultrasound or X-ray to determine the type and extent of any damage.
Surgery for tennis elbow is usually an outpatient procedure. Depending on your condition, your surgeon will recommend either open or arthroscopic surgery. Open surgery is the most common. The surgeon cuts the outside of the elbow to access tendons, muscle and bone. Minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery is performed via a smaller incision. During the procedure, your surgeon removes any damaged muscle and re-attaches healthy muscle to the bone.
Tennis elbow surgery recovery time
It usually takes four to six months after surgery to return to normal daily activities and sports. Your arm will be in a splint for about a week, then the splint and your stitches are removed. Your Franciscan Health orthopedic team will recommend exercises at home to stretch your elbow and restore movement. You also may have rehabilitation, such as physical therapy.