Expert Sports Medicine Care for Tennis Elbow Injuries
Despite its nickname, tennis elbow is not limited to tennis players. Although the backhand swing in tennis may lead to this condition, a variety of other repetitive activities such as golf, baseball, using hand tools, painting, weaving or cutting may cause tennis elbow.
If you experience symptoms of lateral epicondylitis, also known as tennis elbow, such as pain or stiffness, the sports medicine elbow specialists at University Hospitals can help address your pain and restore movement. Our team may ask you to perform certain arm motions and apply pressure to the outside of the elbow. If detected, we’ll design a personalized tennis elbow treatment plan that is right for your particular needs and goals.
Imaging tests to determine the severity of your injury may be performed, including:
- X-ray: To show a 2-dimensional picture of the elbow, an x-ray may be used to determine if there is any damage to the bones that form your elbow joint.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Because the elbow is a complex joint and is often injured in sports activities, our team may use an MRI to determine your cause of pain. An MRI shows both soft tissues and bones, so it is helpful to show areas of swelling or any injury to cartilage, ligaments or tendons.
- Electromyography (EMG): An electrodiagnostic technique, an EMG will assess both your muscles and motor neurons that control them. By analyzing this data, our team can determine any abnormalities in your muscle activation level or biomechanics of your movement.
Conservative Treatments May Alleviate Tennis Elbow Pain
About 95 percent of patients with lateral epicondylitis will successfully respond to conservative treatments. Initially, you will be instructed to avoid any activities that cause pain. Then, one or multiple conservative treatments may be recommended.
The most effective conservative treatments for tennis elbow include ice to decrease swelling and inflammation, a brace to reduce the load of the lateral elbow and stretching and strengthening exercises from a sports physical therapist to minimize symptoms. Platelet rich plasma (PRP) injections or shock wave therapy may be given as well.
Minimally Invasive Surgical Expertise
If conservative tennis elbow treatments are ineffective after three months, our board-certified sports medicine physicians have perfected a minimally invasive arthroscopy surgery that may be a viable treatment option for you. These are the same minimally invasive techniques that our sports medicine doctors use for the most elite athletes - as team physicians for both NFL and Olympic teams.
Our team of UH orthopaedic and sports medicine elbow specialists use miniature tools and small incisions to remove the damaged tissue where the tendon attaches to the bone. Another minimally invasive technique called Tenex offers another option in patients suffering from tennis elbow. Our team is one of only a few in northeast Ohio that offers this innovative technique.
Following any procedure, both minimally invasive or open surgery, you will then undergo a comprehensive rehabilitation program to help you regain the flexibility and function of the elbow. Our elbow rehab specialists will also help you understand how to stretch and strengthen your arm muscles to keep them flexible and ready for any activity.
Understanding Tennis Elbow Symptoms
Lateral epicondylitis, better known as tennis elbow, describes pain that occurs on the outside or lateral side of the elbow. This condition is typically diagnosed in men and women between the ages of 30 and 50.
Pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow, tightness of the forearm muscles, stiffness or difficulty moving the elbow or a lack of full elbow extension are all symptoms of tennis elbow.
These symptoms can make basic activities more difficult. If you are having issues or elbow pain with activities such as shaking hands, turning door knobs, lifting items, holding a cup of coffee, opening jars or even brushing your teeth, we can help.