Tennis elbow is a condition characterized by the attachment of tendon fibers on the elbow’s epicedial while the exterior deteriorates. These tendons anchor the muscles that cause lifting up of wrist and hand. However, tennis elbow commonly affects the patients with an age group between third to fifth decades although it can affect people of any age. About 50 percent of teens affected with tennis elbow are involved in racquet sports and thus given a name “tennis elbow”. Moreover, majority of the patients suffering from tennis elbow are those who don’t participate in racquet sports and there may not be any related injury until the symptoms show up. Tennis elbow can also affect people who frequently and vigorously use their forearm muscles for routine work including recreational activities. Few patients experience the condition if they are not involved in a sport or activity that will trigger it.
Tennis Elbow Symptoms
The symptoms of tennis elbow include slow, severe burning pain on the exterior part of the elbow. Although most of the cases start with a mild, gradually slow pain that worsens after few weeks or month. Then the pain becomes severe when an affected person tries to lift heavy materials. In a few cases, pain may occur even when lifting light objects such as a full coffee cup or a book while in the most severe cases, pain can occur just due to the movement of the elbow.
A for certain diagnose of a tennis elbow requires a doctor who obtains a detailed medical history of the patien and conducts an elbow examination to check if it aches by gently palpating in an area where the bone is noticeable on the elbow’s exterior. The doctor may also ask the patient to lift the wrist or fingers and may apply some pressure to detect any pain upon applying pressure. X-rays are never used for diagnosis although an MRI scan can help to detect the tendon alterations at the site of bone attachment.
Many treatment options are available and most of the cases can be dealt with a non-surgical treatment. The main idea of the 1st phase of treatment is relieving pain and one should refrain from all the activities that may cause painful symptoms. The doctor can also recommend to the patient to apply ice to the elbow’s exterior and to relieve pain through anti-inflammatory medications.
Orthotics helps in reducing the symptoms gradually. The doctor may also opt for wrist splints and counterforce braces that may be helpful to overcome the symptoms by properly resting the tendons and muscles. The patient may show recovery signs within 1 to 1.5 months however the next option could be an injection called corticosteroid that can be given at the vicinity of the elbow which progressively reduces pain and is an option. However, its over-use may cause many side effects. Normally it should be avoided if at all possible.
On achieving pain relief, the next phase of the treatment involves alteration of activities to avoid the symptoms from reappearing. The doctor may also recommend physiotherapy that includes stretching exercises in order to strengthen the affected muscles and tendons. Physiotherapy has a highest rate of success and returns the elbow condition to normal work. About 85 to 90 percent of the patients benefit from non-surgical procedures.
Surgical procedure is indicated for patients presenting with intolerable pain that shows no improvement to non-surgical treatment for a period of 6 months. The procedure includes extraction of the affected tendon tissue and placing it onto the bone. The surgery can be performed on outpatient basis and does not require hospital stay. The surgery is performed by placing a small incision on the external bony prominence of the elbow. Currently, a surgery called arthroscopic surgery has been developed although there is lack of benefits when compared to the traditional method of open incision.