Causes and Treatment Solutions for Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow is a condition where the common extensor tendon, which is the tendon that attaches to the elbow and is responsible for backhand(wrist extension) movements of the wrist, gets injured. Although tennis players can get this condition, it happens to anyone who has overstressed the tendons.
Another name for tennis elbow is Lateral Epicondylitis which is where the tendon is inflamed. We now know that it is not the most common cause of tennis elbow. The correct name is common extensor tendinosis. Most tendon injuries result in overuse in the tendon that attaches to the bone which can cause the tendon to weaken or tear.
How do you know if you have Lateral Epicondylitis?
Tennis elbow typically develops over time and is usually caused in people who are extending their wrists as the common extensor tendon moves the wrist. Symptoms can include pain and stiffness over the outside of the elbow, radiating pain down the arm, or difficult grabbing objects. Ultrasound is equivalent to MRI to see if there is a tendon injury and is inexpensive and can be done in the clinic to measure the severity of the injury.
What are the treatments for Lateral Epicondylitis?
Nonsurgical options include activity modification including changing the way you use your wrist or reducing activity that aggravates you, bracing such as a tennis elbow brace as seen in the picture below, or physical therapy exercises.
To properly fit the brace, it is critical that the brace is tight and snug and at least 2 cm below the elbow to take pressure off the injured tendons. Physical therapy can be very helpful and include massage, dry needling and specific strengthening exercises. In order for therapy to be helpful, it takes 4-6 weeks of specific strengthening exercises to relieve some of tension the tendon takes. Below are some pictures of tennis elbow exercises:
When non-invasive treatments are not successful, the next step is injections. Injections could include Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) percutaneous tenotomy (Tenex) which are very effective for tennis elbow. Learn more about Tenex and PRP here.
Patient testimonial of PRP for tennis elbow:
"I had the PRP procedure done eight weeks ago, and at about the six week mark I really started feeling improvements. Pain decreased from touch and movement. Now at eight weeks my pain level is at about a two. This is the best I have felt in two years since we have been trying to address this elbow tear and rotator cuff. I am amazed after eight weeks how much my pain level went from an eight or nine to a TWO. And it’s intermittent now, it’s not consistent anymore. This was the right thing for me, I am so glad I was referred here!"
Watch this video to hear the patient speak about PRP for her tennis elbow.