What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow is a painful overuse condition of the common tendon of muscles on the outside of the forearm. These muscles are active in gripping, and cocking the wrist backwards. This pain occurs where the tendon joins the arm bone (humerus), just above the outside of the elbow.
What causes it?
Tennis elbow is an overuse injury and is not necessarily caused by racquet sports. The tendon becomes painful due to overload from certain activities, and may develop changes in the quality of the tendon tissue which is associated with persisting pain.
There are many treatment options. No one treatment is successful for everyone, thus making tennis elbow a frustration for the patient and the treating doctor at times. Fortunately, tennis elbow is a self-limiting condition, which means it will recover gradually in the vast majority of cases, although this can be quite slow. There are treatments which may hasten recovery and return to sport:
- Relative rest – a period of avoiding the aggravating activities, whilst slowly building up the strength and tissue capacity again
- Icing and exercises – should be performed diligently and is the backbone of the recovery process
- Physiotherapy - Can help supervise and structure your recovery process. May also address contributing factors to the pain such as weak muscles around the shoulders and nerve irritation from the neck.
- Cortisone injection – can potentially worsen the condition in the long-term and should only be considered in certain cases. It relieves pain by relieving inflammation. In most cases, it must be combined with an exercise programme to achieve a lasting result. Side effects may be, pain at the injection site for a couple of days and dimpling and pallor of the skin at the injection site.
- Acupuncture - is successful in some cases. The mechanism by which it works is not fully understood, but probably reduces tension and pain in the forearm muscles.
- Surgery – is rarely, if ever, indicated
- A tennis elbow brace may also be useful in reducing loads on the tendon during activity