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Tennis Elbow Anyone How to Treat and Avoid Lateral Epicondylitis

Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a degenerative condition caused by overusing the tendons on the outside of the elbow. Repetitive motions, such as hitting a tennis ball with the forehand, can cause micro-tears in the extensor tendon of the forearm, leading to pain. But it’s not just tennis players who can develop this condition. Painters, plumbers, carpenters, auto industry workers and cooks also are more prone to develop tennis elbow because of the repetitive movements in their jobs.

Symptoms of Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow develops gradually. Your forearm may start off feeling a little sore and over time, your arm may feel weak. Untreated, the soreness evolves into pain that becomes noticeable even when you’re involved in daily activities, such as turning a doorknob or holding a heavy object, such as a gallon of milk.

Diagnosing and Treating Tennis Elbow

If you suspect you have tennis elbow, a physician who specializes in sports injuries can correctly diagnose the source of your pain. They will examine your elbow, applying pressure to the tendon to assess for tenderness, and even examine the forearm and the wrist to confirm and rule out other potential causes of your pain.  If you have tennis elbow, the initial course of action is non-operative.

The goal for treating tennis elbow is to decrease stress and dependence on the repetitive movement that initiated the damage, while building strength to that tendon area. This treatment may take the form of using a brace, non-inflammatory pain relievers like ibuprofen and physical therapy. A sports medicine trained physical therapist will develop a physical therapy plan to help you recover and will provide additional exercises you can do at home to help decrease tendon stress, reduce pain and increase function.Physical therapist examining a patients elbow

When treating tennis elbow, injections are occasionally used. However, steroid injections are not recommended because they can potentially increase the damage to the tendon. Instead, platelet-rich plasma injections may be used because the infusion of healing factors from the platelets is thought to speed and enhance healing.

If non-operative treatments do not work, your doctor may suggest surgery. This may include debridement, which involves removing damaged tissue from the tendon. Surgery also may be used to repair more significant tears to the tendon, if present.

Preventing Tennis Elbow

Once you’ve recovered from tennis elbow, look for ways to avoid the condition from reoccurring. If tennis elbow started while you were playing a sport, communication with a teaching professional and/or physical therapist is important to review your sport-specific form and correct any issues. All athletes and non-athletes also can benefit from decreasing elbow stress during work- and home-related activities by looking at ergonomic changes to help offload the stress on the tendon.

If you have pain that might be from tennis elbow, contact a physician specializing in sports medicine to diagnose, treat and provide methods to avoid the condition from returning.

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