What Is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow is pain on the outside of the arm near the elbow. The clinical term for tennis elbow is lateral epicondylitis. It is an overuse injury, usually as a result of repetitive motion. Although playing tennis can cause tennis elbow, other activities can lead to it as well.
Pain on the outside of the elbow is the hallmark of tennis elbow. The pain may travel down to the forearm and back of hand when grasping or twisting the arm, and the grip may be weak.
Tennis elbow is an overuse injury. When the arm is moved in the same way or held in the same position over and over again, the tendons of the elbow rub against bone, begin to get frayed and can tear. People between the ages of 35 and 54 are most commonly affected.
The tennis backhand stroke is the most common culprit for tennis players, but tennis players are not the only people who develop tennis elbow. Other activities and occupations that tend to cause tennis elbow include:
- Construction work
- Desk work
A physical exam is the most common mode of diagnosis for tennis elbow. The doctor will be looking for pain when the tendon is pressed and pain when the wrist is bent backward. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan may help confirm the diagnosis. Electromyography (EMG) can rule out nerve compression.
Conservative treatments are usually tried first. These include:
- Over-the-counter pain medications
- Physical therapy
- Steroid injections
- A new tennis racket and modification of swing technique
- Platelet rich plasma (PRP) injections
- Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT)
If these measures are tried for 6 to 12 months without success, surgery may be necessary. Surgery can be either open or arthroscopic, and will usually involve the removal of damaged tissue and reattachment of muscles to bones.
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