A Quick Guide to... Tennis Elbow

Tennis Elbow, also known as ‘lateral epicondylitis’, is a chronic degenerative condition of a tendon on the outside of the elbow, causing the outer part of the elbow to become tender and sore.

Whilst the exact cause of Tennis Elbow is not yet known, it is commonly associated with tennis (hence the name) and other racquet sports - however you don’t need to be a Wimbledon star to get it. Any activity that extends the wrist and twists it, can lead to Tennis Elbow. In terms of physiotherapy or orthopaedics, it could potentially cause months of discomfort if not diagnosed and cured properly.

What are the symptoms?

  •  Moving your wrist, lifting movements, and gripping objects will usually hurt. 
  •  Swelling of your elbow around the area of pain. 
  •  Pain experienced when shaking hands or making a fist. 
  •  Shooting pains from your elbow, down to your forearm or up into the upper arm.
  •  Some patients describe the area as feeling stiff, especially in the morning, 
  •  If it’s left untreated, a dull and constant pain, or sharp shooting pain may be felt. 

What is the treatment for Tennis Elbow?

The type and period of treatment will depend on the severity of your Tennis Elbow. Easily bought items such as ice packs and painkilling tablets can help to ease the symptoms, but will not be that effective with severe cases.

Steroid injections are a commonly used treatment too, however these can wear off after a few months and there is evidence that whilst they may help to reduce symptoms in the short term, they could cause the condition to continue for longer. 

Surgery may also be required for severe cases of Tennis Elbow, and the cases that don’t respond to treatments such as steroid injections.
Your consultant will discuss the best procedure for treatment with you, and you should be able to move your elbow normally two days after surgery. One week off work is normally suggested, whilst full recovery may take up to three months. 

How can I prevent Tennis Elbow?

There are many steps one can take to reduce the chances of getting Tennis Elbow, and below is a list of what OrthTeam would recommend:

  •  Keep your muscles strong with exercise.
  •  Play racquet sports with the proper form.
  •  Lift heavy objects correctly - avoid using your wrist/elbow and spread the load to the upper part of your arm and shoulders.
  •  Warm up properly before workinortg out or playing sports.
  •  Use lightweight racquets or tools, and increase their grip size so you can avoid putting access strain on your tendons. 

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