The Aches Behind Tennis Elbow
By Orthopaedic and Neurology Clinic
Tennis elbow is painful weakening of the tendons that join your forearm muscles to your bones. It happens when you work your elbow too much by repeating certain motions.
Most cases of tennis elbow are not due to playing tennis or any other sport. Therefore, any activity that involves a gripping and twisting motion can cause this strain.
Repetitive activity in work are likely causes of it. Carpenters, painters, and plumbers are particularly susceptible.
Symptoms of tennis elbow vary from person to person and range from mild to severe. Typical symptoms include pain in the arm and tenderness around the elbow.
A person may notice swelling and a burning sensation around the elbow. As a result, they may find that their grip becomes weaker and may also feel pain further down the arm.
Continuation of the repetitive activity causing the strain can make it worse.
What are some symptoms of a Tennis Elbow?
The symptoms of tennis elbow develop gradually. In most cases, the pain begins as mild and slowly worsens over weeks and months. There is usually no specific injury associated with the start of symptoms.
Common signs and symptoms of tennis elbow include:
- Pain or burning on the outer part of your elbow
- Weak grip strength
However the symptoms are often worsened with forearm activity, such as holding a racquet, turning a wrench, or shaking hands. Your dominant arm is most often affected; however both arms can be affected.
“Most people can treat the pain and inflammation caused by tennis elbow with rest and OTC medication. Therefore if the pain is severe or does not go away within 2 weeks, a person should see a doctor.”
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What types of diagnosis?
Our doctor will talk to you about what activities cause symptoms and where on your arm the symptoms occur. Be sure to tell him if you have ever injured your elbow. If you have a history of rheumatoid arthritis or nerve disease, tell our doctor.
During the examination, our Specialist will use a variety of tests to pinpoint the diagnosis. For example, our doctor may ask you to try to straighten your wrist and fingers against resistance with your arm fully straight to see if this causes pain. If the tests are positive, it tells him that those muscles may not be healthy.
Our Specialist may recommend additional tests to rule out other causes of your problem.
- X-rays. These tests provide clear images of dense structures like bone. They may be taken to rule out arthritis of the elbow.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. If our doctor thinks your symptoms are related to a neck problem, an MRI scan may be ordered. MRIs scans show details of soft tissues, and will help your doctor see if you have a possible herniated disk or arthritis in your neck. Both of these conditions often produce arm pain.
- Electromyography (EMG). Our doctor may order an EMG to rule out nerve compression. Many nerves travel around the elbow, and the symptoms of nerve compression are similar to those of tennis elbow.
Possible treatment methods?
Tennis elbow often gets better on its own. But if over-the-counter pain medications and other self-care measures aren’t helping, our Specialist may suggest physical therapy. Severe cases of tennis elbow may require surgery.
If your symptoms are related to tennis, our doctor may suggest that experts evaluate your tennis technique or the movements involved with your job tasks to determine the best steps to reduce stress on your injured tissue.
Our physical therapist can teach you exercises to gradually stretch and strengthen your muscles, especially the muscles of your forearm. In addition, eccentric exercises, which involve lowering your wrist very slowly after raising it, are particularly helpful. Therefore a forearm strap or brace may reduce stress on the injured tissue.
Surgical or other procedures
- Injections. Our Specialist might suggest injection into the painful tendon. Dry needling — in which a needle pierces the damaged tendon in many places — can also be helpful.
- Ultrasonic tenotomy. In this procedure, under ultrasound guidance, our Specialist inserts a special needle through your skin and into the damaged portion of the tendon. Ultrasonic energy vibrates the needle so swiftly that the damaged tissue liquefies and can be suctioned out.
- Surgery. If your symptoms haven’t improved after six to 12 months of extensive non-operative treatment, you may be a candidate for surgery to remove damaged tissue. These types of procedures can be performed through a large incision or through several small incisions. Rehabilitation exercises are crucial to recovery.