Tennis elbow is a painful condition in your elbow joint that’s caused by repeated use — and not only from using a racket. Tennis elbow can come on in many different ways, from an occupation where your elbow is called upon repeatedly (think turning a wrench) to weekends spent with gardening tools.
If you’ve been struggling with the considerable discomfort of tennis elbow but you’re less than enthusiastic about undergoing surgery, the good news is we can improve the condition using a range of effective non-surgical techniques.
While J. Michael Bennett, MD, may be a second-generation orthopedic surgeon, he understands and encourages non-surgical treatments whenever possible. In his mission to help his patients in Houston and Sugar Land, Texas regain pain-free movement, he has a number of tools in his treatment arsenal that deliver great results — without a knife or scalpel.
On or off the courts
Tennis elbow is medically known as lateral epicondylitis and it’s caused by an inflammation in the tendons in your elbow, specifically your extensor carpi radialis brevis. This tendon connects your forearm muscles to your elbow and helps stabilize your wrist when your arm is extended, as in a swing of the racket.
If you overuse this tendon, it can develop tiny little tears that lead to inflammation and pain. If you catch tennis elbow in its early stages, typically all you need is a few weeks of rest to allow time for your body to heal these small tears and reduce the inflammation. If, however, you have persistent tennis elbow, you’ll need the guidance of an elbow specialist like Dr. Bennett to help you strengthen and heal the area properly — and you’ll need to be proactive in the process.
Shoring it up
One of the first lines of defense against tennis elbow is physical therapy. Your elbow is a complex joint that relies on many different connective tissues for support and range of motion. As a result, when there’s a problem in one area, you need to focus on healthier areas to pick up the slack and provide protection.
With physical therapy, you accomplish just that. Under the guidance of Dr. Bennett, your physical therapist compiles a series of stretching and strengthening exercises that shore up the muscles surrounding your wrist and elbow, taking the pressure off your tendon. These exercises aren’t terribly difficult, but you need to do your part by fully committing to your at-home regimen.
Either Dr. Bennett or your physical therapist will supply you with a number of stretches and strengthening exercises, such as wrist flexes and fist clenches, that you need to do on your own in between physical therapy sessions. With your dedication to the process, your tennis elbow will improve, restoring pain-free movement that’s even stronger than before.
Another tool in Dr. Bennett’s arsenal is a counterforce brace. The brace is either a strap or a band that you place on your forearm close to your elbow. The brace takes pressure off your tendon and transfers any forces on your elbow down your arm.
You should wear the brace according to the doctor’s instructions, which usually entail laying off of the elbow for a little while. In other words, the brace shouldn’t be used as a way to bypass your other treatments to get you back to the activity that caused the condition in the first place.
You should use the brace to reduce your pain while your tendon heals, then Dr. Bennett may recommend that you continue its use once you resume your normal activities, to prevent tennis elbow from redeveloping.
Back to basics
While you work to heal your tennis elbow under Dr. Bennett’s expert care, we recommend that you ice the area often and take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs to help with the pain and inflammation. These two basic therapies, as well as a healthy dose of rest, are some of the best ways you can move past your persistent tennis elbow.
If you’re suffering from nagging tennis elbow, please give us a call so we can get you started on a non-surgical treatment plan. You can also use the online scheduling tool found on this website to book an appointment.