Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)

Overview

Tennis elbow is a condition that affects a group of muscles and tendons in your forearm that attach to the bone on the outside of your elbow. It is also called lateral epicondylitis or lateral epicondylopathy. The extensor carpi radials brevis muscle is a specific forearm muscle affected by tennis elbow that helps to stabilize and move the wrist, but when injured from overuse it results in pain and weakness.

This condition is most well known for affecting tennis players but it can affect people who are active in many different activities, including racket sports, throwing sports, weightlifting, and others. This condition more commonly affects adults performing these repetitive activities without proper training. In order to prevent this, it is recommended you ensure proper fit and technique when using sports equipment. Stretching, strengthening, and progressive build-up of activities can also help decrease risk of developing tennis elbow. If you do suspect you have tennis elbow, using a sports medicine team to properly diagnose and treat this can get you back in the swing of things in no time.

 

After your medical team has confirmed the diagnosis by obtaining a medical history, physical exam, and possibly imaging (X-ray, ultrasound, or MRI), they will create a plan to help treat your symptoms and get you back to the activities you desire. Initial treatment often focuses on rest to avoid activities that cause pain, ice, and certain medications. Ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol) or naproxen sodium (Aleve) are often used.  

There are several procedures or therapies that can be used to treat tennis elbow. Ultrasound machines frequently are employed to diagnose or assist with procedures to treat tennis elbow. Injections and procedures that have recently shown potential to help treat tennis elbow include platelet-rich plasma injections, botulinum toxin injections, shock wave therapy, and others. Corticosteroid injections are not routinely recommended as research has shown no significant long-term improvement with this treatment. Working with a physical therapist to stretch, strengthen, and provide education is key to successful treatment. If recommended by your sports medicine team, the use of a counterforce brace on your forearm can assist with pain control and recovery as well.  

Surgery is rarely required to treat tennis elbow and typically only considered if the above treatments have failed over several months. A less invasive procedure called TENEX can be used to manage pain and remove damaged tissue if recommended by your healthcare team. The majority of patients will respond to the less invasive treatments and are able to fully return to their desired activities over time.

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