What is Tennis Elbow?
This condition is caused by repetitive motion of the elbow and is often seen in athletes whose sport involved throwing. Though it is called “Tennis Elbow” both athletes and nonathletes are at risk for the condition. The tendons in the elbow become overloaded when the wrist and arm are repeating the same motion.
Why is it Called Tennis Elbow?
Though it is called tennis elbow, this condition can affect anyone whose sport, daily life, or occupation involves repetitive motion of the elbow. A few occupations that are at risk or tennis elbow are painters, plumbers, or any type of construction worker.
What Causes Tennis Elbow?
As mentioned previously, tennis elbow is caused by repetitive motion. The pain appears where the joints in your forearm meet the bone on the outside of the elbow. That pain the occurs in the outside of the elbow could also travel down to your forearm or even your wrist.
What Does Pain from Tennis Elbow Feel Like?
The pain can radiate from the outside of the elbow to the forearm and wrist. This can could make it difficult to shake hands, turn a doorknob, or grip an object like a mug.
What is the Best Treatment for Tennis Elbow?
At Elite, we always suggest trying the least invasive treatment possible first. That starts with over-the-counter pain medications, rest, and ice. This conservative treatment often helps patients in the earlier stages. If the pain persists, we encourage you to seek the advice o your orthopedic surgeon, preferably one who specializes in the upper extremity.
Other treatment options include:
- Physical Therapy (range of motion exercises)
- Injections - steroids can help reduce the swelling and pain around the joint
- Surgery - if after 4-6 months the treatments prescribed by your doctor do not work, surgery may be necessary for a full recovery.
How Long Does It Take Tennis Elbow to Heal?
The recovery time for tennis elbow varies from patient to patient. Since the pain stems from repetitive action, it can take 6 months to a year to recover without proper treatment. The most important step to take is resting the elbow to give it the opportunity to heal.
Recovery time varies based on what treatment the patient chooses as well. If tennis elbow can be treated conservatively the recovery will be shorter, but if the doctor sees (through imaging) that the condition will not improve with conservative treatments then recovery time extends.
Rest and PT- 6-8 weeks
Injections- 4-5 days, with results lasting around 3 months
Surgery- 3-6 months with high potential for a full recovery
How to Sleep with Tennis Elbow
With tennis elbow, you want to avoid putting any extra stress on the joint.
Laying on your back with your arms in a natural, straight position will help prevent causing further damage or pain. If lying your arms beside you on the bed also causes pain, you can try placing a pillow under your arm to elevate it.
- Lay with your arms above your head
- Rest your head on the arm with tennis elbow
- Lay on your side
Tennis Elbow Exercises (all you need is a towel!)
- Clenching your first can help strengthen the muscles that help you grip onto things.
- Place your arm on an even surface (table) then grab a towel or stress ball and beginning clenching your fist
- Hold for 10 seconds, rest for 10, and repeat 10 times
- Towel Twist
- Grab a towel with both hands on either end and begin twisting
- Repeat 10 times and rest for 10 seconds in between
As always, ask your doctor if these exercises will benefit you.
What Kind of Doctor Do You See for Tennis Elbow?
If you are experiencing elbow pain, we recommend finding an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hand and upper extremity pain. These orthopedic surgeons will have additional training and experience treating things like tennis elbow, and will know the best treatment plan for your condition.
Does Tennis Elbow Require Surgery?
Not all tennis elbow requires surgery. Depending on the severity of the condition you may be able to avoid it entirely. However, that will require you seeking medical help sooner rather than later. We encourage our patients to consult with their doctor before the pain gets worse.
Think you may have tennis elbow? Schedule an appointment with one of our hand and upper extremity doctors in the middle Tennessee area.