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Tennis elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)
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Tennis elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)

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Tennis elbow, also called lateral epicondylitis, is a common cause of elbow pain.

Elbow - side view

 

Treatment

Initial treatment of tennis elbow usually involves self-care steps including rest, icing the area and use of acetaminophen or over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory medications. If those steps don't help and you still have pain and limited motion after a week or so, your doctor may suggest other steps. These may include:

  • Analyzing your arm motions. Your doctor may suggest that experts evaluate your tennis technique or job tasks to determine the best steps to reduce stress on your injured tissue. This may mean going to a two-handed backhand in tennis or taking ergonomic steps at work to ensure that the way you use your wrist and forearm doesn't continue to contribute to your symptoms.

  • Prescription medications. If your use of OTC medications hasn't reduced pain and inflammation, your doctor may prescribe stronger medications for a short period of time.

  • Exercises. Your doctor — or physical therapist to whom you've been referred by your doctor — may suggest exercises to gradually stretch and strengthen your muscles, especially the muscles of your forearm. Once you've learned these exercises, you can do them at home or at work. Your doctor may also suggest you wear straps or braces to reduce stress on the injured tissue.

  • Corticosteroids. If your pain is severe and persistent, your doctor may suggest an injection of a corticosteroid medication. Corticosteroids are drugs that help to reduce pain, swelling and inflammation. Injectable corticosteroids rarely cause serious side effects, although they may temporarily raise blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. However, a Mayo Clinic study showed that these medications didn't provide a clear benefit over physical therapy exercises alone when administered within a month of onset of symptoms. Your doctor may also suggest use of topical corticosteroids for pain relief. These corticosteroids are absorbed through your skin.

  • Surgery. If other approaches haven't relieved your pain, if you've been faithful with your rehabilitation program and given it enough time, and if the activity of your arm is still restricted, your doctor may suggest surgery. You'll be able to have the surgery done on an outpatient basis, meaning you can go home the same day. Surgery involves either trimming the inflamed tendon, or surgically releasing and then re-attaching the tendon to relieve pain.

Prevention

Until symptoms of pain and inflammation subside, activities requiring repetitive wrist and forearm motion should be avoided. Once pain decreases to the point that return to activity can begin, the playing of sports, such as tennis, for long periods should not occur until excellent condition returns. Many times, choosing a different size or type of tennis racquet or tool may help. Frequent rest periods are important despite what the wrist and forearm activity may be. Compliance to a stretching and strengthening program is very important in helping prevent recurring symptoms and exacerbation.

These steps may help you prevent a tennis elbow injury:

  • In tennis, have a tennis professional review your technique to see if you're using the proper motion. Swing the racket with your whole arm and get your entire body involved in the stroke, not just your wrist.

  • Prepare for any sport season with appropriate pre-season conditioning. Do strengthening exercises with a hand weight by flexing and extending your wrists. Letting the weight down slowly after extending your wrist is one way of building strength so that force is absorbed into your tissue.

  • Try to keep your wrist straight and rigid during any lifting activity — including weight training — or during tennis strokes. Let the bigger, more powerful muscles of your upper arm do more of the work than your smaller forearm muscles.

  • Warm up properly. Gently stretch the forearm muscles at your wrist before and after use.

  • Try applying an ice pack after heavy use.

 

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Disclaimer

This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
In no event will The DrEddyClinic.com be liable for any decision made or action taken in reliance upon the information provided through this web site.

 


 



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