Tennis Elbow Treatment

Tennis Elbow Treatment

Shoulder Surgery - Adelaide Orthopaedic Specialists

Tennis elbow is the common name for an overuse injury called lateral epicondylitis. It’s caused by inflammation of the tendons that attach to the bony prominence on the outside of our elbow (the lateral epicondyle).

What is Tennis Elbow?

The elbow is a complex joint that’s formed by the joining of three bones: the humerus (upper arm bone), ulna (outer forearm bone), and the radius (inner forearm bone). These bones are covered with muscle, ligaments, as well as protective synovial membrane that lubricates the bones to eliminate friction as we move our arm.

While the complexity of our elbow joint allows a wide range of motion, it’s also susceptible to inflammation and injury when we overload and stress our forearm muscles. This can lead to painful inflammation of the tendons, muscles, and synovial tissue

Causes of Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow can be caused by injury secondary to overuse and muscle strain. As the name suggests, Tennis Elbow is a common injury in people involved in sports and other activities that require repetitive muscle contractions at the forearm. Most commonly, the condition is associated with age-related change in a previously normally functioning tendon. This can be associated with painful function. The changes within the tendon can lead to tearing of the common extensor tendon origin, which may progress with time.

Tennis players, painters, knitters, typists, gardeners and musicians tend to be susceptible to the condition. It most commonly occurs in people between the ages of 35 and 55, although it can happen in anyone who overuses their forearm tendons.

Do you have these symptoms?

The most common symptoms of Tennis Elbow include pain and tenderness, usually on the outside of the elbow. Symptoms may develop slowly over time, or happen suddenly after an intense sporting session or strenuous day at work. The pain and weakness associated with Tennis Elbow may make it difficult to:

  • Shake hands or grip objects
  • Turn doorknobs
  • Grip a pen or small object
  • Hold a coffee cup

The pain can vary from mild discomfort to severe pain that keeps you up at night. If you have severe elbow pain, can’t move your elbow or have loss of feeling in your elbow, arm or hand, see your GP right away.

Diagnosing Tennis Elbow

Usually, a diagnosis can be made based on the history of the injury and the results of a physical examination. Your GP will look for inflammation, swelling, or tenderness in your elbow and wrist, and will also test your range of function to see how much the problem is inhibiting your ability to move normally.

Your GP may also order X-rays to help rule out any other causes that may be causing your symptoms (such as arthritis). Sometimes, an ultrasound or MRI may be required to look for degenerative changes in your tendons too.


Natural and Home Remedies For Tennis Elbow

There are many options to treat Tennis Elbow at home, especially if your symptoms are mild. Conservative treatment options for treating your symptoms may include:

  • Limiting use of the arm, and resting it completely from activities that worsen symptoms
  • Using a splint or brace to decrease stress on the injured tissues
  • Lifting objects with your palm facing up to put less strain on your forearm muscles
  • Applying ice packs to the elbow to help reduce swelling
  • Taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen
  • Light elbow and wrist stretching activities to improve muscle healing

Most patients successfully relieve their symptoms using these non-surgical, conservative treatments. If your symptoms haven’t abated after six months or so, see your GP for a referral to Adelaide Shoulder and Upper Limb Clinic.

Steroid or Therapeutic Injections For Tennis Elbow

Depending on the circumstances of your injury, the surgeons at Adelaide Shoulder and Upper Limb Clinic may recommend a steroid or other therapeutic injection to assist healing. Steroids such as cortisone are very effective anti-inflammatory medicines, and when applied directly into the area, can help with symptoms.

The injection is done using image guidance (such as ultrasound) so the medicine can be delivered precisely in the right spot. It contains an anaesthetic, so it’s less painful. However, you may feel some mild discomfort during the injection, and experience some redness and swelling afterward.

Afterward, you will need to protect the area for a few days, and avoid vigorous arm movement.

Therapeutic injections are not suitable for everyone and do carry some risks. Our surgeons will assess your suitability for the procedure, and if they decide it’s an appropriate treatment option for your condition, then you will be referred for this treatment.