Tennis Elbow: What causes it and how is it treated?

You’re the star pitcher for your high school team. 

Like any star player, your team leans on you night in and night out to perform to help the team
win. And because your team is fighting for a playoff position, your coach has been increasing
your workload. 
Normally, you wouldn’t have any issues. You love to play baseball and you know your team’s
best shot of winning is with you on the mound. 
But recently, you’ve been experiencing some pain in your elbow. As your innings have climbed,
so has the pain and discomfort in your arm. It goes away with time, but comes back whenever
you play. 
And when the injury is aggravated, it makes even the simplest of tasks nearly impossible. The
day after you pitch you can’t even brush your teeth or hold a fork without pain. 
You’re an athlete, so you’re used to playing through pain from time to time, but this is different.
It’s affecting your quality of life off the field, just as it’s hurting your performance on the field. 
After doing your research and visiting a doctor, you’ve come to the conclusion that you have
tennis elbow. 

But what is tennis elbow? Is the injury serious? And how is it treated?

What’s Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis, is when the tendons that attach to the bone on the outside
of your elbow become weakened, usually due to wear and tear. 
These tendons are responsible for transferring the force from the muscles in your arm, to the
bone in your elbow. When these tendons become degenerated, it puts this area under an
incredible amount of stress. 
When you have tennis elbow, there’s not much you can do without discomfort. Common
activities like lifting, gripping, and grasping can all be uncomfortable and painful. 

What are Signs and Symptoms of Tennis Elbow?

So now that you know what Tennis Elbow is, how do you know if you have it?
The injury is characterized by pain located on the outside of your elbow. It will cause common,
everyday tasks that require gripping and grasping to be painful. And any motion will be
uncomfortable.
This pain begins at the elbow and can radiate all the way down your forearm into your hand. The
outside of your elbow can also be painful and tender to the touch. 


What Causes Tennis Elbow?

From the name, tennis elbow, you might expect that the injury is associated with tennis and
sports like it. But the name can be misleading because it can stem from many different activities.
There are two main causes of the injury. 
1. Overuse: When repetitive motion over a long period of time causes a breakdown in the
tendon. Activities that require gripping and grasping such as meat cutting, plumbing,
painting, and mechanic work can all lead to Tennis Elbow. 
2. Trauma: Most of the time, Tennis Elbow is caused by wear and tear, but it can be caused
by an acute injury. A direct blow to the elbow can lead to swelling in the lateral
epicondylitis and lead to degeneration.

How is Tennis Elbow Treated?

Tennis elbow is an unpredictable condition. For some, the pain and discomfort will subside on its
own in about a years time. But for others, treatment is needed and surgery may required to make
a full recovery. 
Treatment includes:
• Rest: The first step is to stop whatever you’re doing that’s causing the condition.
Modifying an activity with a different grip can help relieve the issue.
• Medication: The pain from tennis elbow stems from inflammation. One of the best ways
to ease the discomfort is through anti-inflammatory treatments. 
• Brace: Another way to help your tendon heal is through immobilization. Using a brace
can reduce tension and alleviate pressure on your elbow. 
• Therapy: Rest can go a long way towards healing your elbow, but an active recovery is
best. Stretching and strengthening exercises and heat therapy can speed up the recovery
process. 
• Injections: Anti-inflammatory steroid medications can ease inflammation and platelet
rich plasma treatments can increase blood flow to the area to stimulate healing naturally.
• Surgery: If the above treatments don’t work, surgery is considered as the last option
when symptoms have been sustained from six to twelve months. The procedure involves
cutting into the elbow to remove the scared, degenerative tissue.

Tennis elbow might not seem like a serious condition, but without proper treatment the minor
injury can turn into a major issue. If you’re experiencing the above symptoms, make sure you get
your elbow looked at.
Are you experiencing discomfort in your elbow? Have your symptoms lasted for prolonged
period of time? Schedule an appointment with our specialists and we’ll get to the bottom of your
issue.

Author
Dr. J. Michael Bennett

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