Tennis elbow, which is scientifically referred to as lateral epicondylitis, is a very common orthopedic condition. This aptly named ailment was named after the repetitive elbow movement that those who play tennis regularly demonstrate. This condition isn't limited to tennis players, though! Anyone who is engaged in repetitive arm movements as a result of their day-to-day lives can be susceptible to this condition.

At Sports Medicine & Joint Replacement Specialists, we've seen our fair share of cases of tennis elbow lateral epicondylitis. Our team of specialists in the Pittsburgh, PA area have the expertise required to help you get back to winning condition.

Tennis elbow symptoms might be manageable, but only if they're diagnosed and treated with enough time to spare! That's why it's so important that you're educated on tennis elbow, and all of the symptoms, treatment options, and prevention strategies related to it.

Understanding Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow isn't just something limited to those who play tennis or other racquet sports. It's simply developed through the repetitive and vigorous use of a specific forearm muscle. Any activity involving twisting, gripping, or lifting can be enough to strain these precious tendons, which is when microscopic tears form and cause inflammation. Some other populations that might experience tennis elbow are:

  • Carpenters
  • Painters
  • Plumbers
  • Computer/Desk Workers

You may be surprised how common it is to engage in an activity that strains the forearm muscles in such a way. If any of these activities sound like things you engage in, take heed, as the next section will delve into the most common symptoms of tennis elbow.

Common Symptoms of Tennis Elbow

Getting tennis elbow diagnosed as quickly as possible is the key step towards making a rapid and thorough recovery, but diagnosis can be difficult if you don't have a strong understanding of the symptoms of tennis elbow. Here are the four key things that you should look out for:

  • Elbow Pain

    When you begin to feel tennis elbow-related pain, it will typically come from the outer part of your elbow. In the beginning stages of developing tennis elbow, it's likely that it will only start as a mild discomfort. But, as the illness progresses, this will become sharp and persistent, moving from just your elbow to a more general and severe arm pain.

  • Sense of Weakness

    As you garner more severe tennis elbow, weak grip strength will follow. This will make it quite difficult for you to perform any kind of repetitive movements, even ones that you used to do on a daily basis. This is part of the reason why the ailment is so closely associated with athletes in racquet sports, as this symptom can greatly interfere with their day-to-day activities.

  • Elbow Stiffness

    Another symptom that many suffering from this condition will experience is a strong stiffness in their elbow joint. This kind of pain begins making itself apparent after periods of rest, or in the mornings when you first awaken.

  • Visible Inflammation & Tenderness

    Aside from the internal feelings of elbow pain, there might be a visible element to this condition. When your arm muscles become inflamed to a certain degree, there will be visible swelling and inflammation in the area. It may redden, or look puffy. This might not be present when you initially get tennis elbow, but as the condition worsens as will the inflammation and subsequent swelling.

  • Diagnosis

    To diagnose tennis elbow, healthcare professionals will typically perform a physical examination and may order imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI scans to rule out other conditions. During the examination, they may ask about your medical history and the activities that may have contributed to the condition's development, like recognized repetitive injury or participation in frequent repetitive movement.

  • Treating Tennis Elbow

    One of the few pieces of good news for someone when they get tennis elbow is that the ailment that they are experiencing has a plethora of treatment options. You can treat tennis elbow in any of its stages, and there is something that is effective for everyone in every case.

    There are also many nonsurgical treatment options for those with tennis elbow. Only in extreme, rare cases will there be a need for tennis elbow surgery. The majority of the time, the nonsurgical treatments work incredibly well. Even if you are a rare case and need to have surgery, there are a ton of effective, thorough resources for further surgery rehabilitation. In these cases, a place like SMJRS can point you in the right direction.

  • Therapy Treatments

    One of the most common treatments for those with tennis elbow is physical therapy. A credible professional will be able to develop a comprehensive plan consisting of gradual strengthening exercises in order to improve muscle healing at a rapid pace.

    You can also apply ice or heat therapy, using these to both decrease the amount of experienced inflammation from your tennis elbow, and help to promote healthy muscle growth.

  • Medications

    In some instances, you might just be prescribed an over-the-counter pain reliever to combat your tennis elbow pain. But, in more severe instances, you could be recommended to relieve steroid injections to reduce inflammation. Another medicinally-based treatment option is Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy. This is an emerging treatment that involves injecting a concentrated form of the patient's own blood into the area plagued by the tennis elbow scar tissue.

  • Rest

    Possibly the oldest cure in the book, sometimes simple is best. It is highly recommended that you give your elbow joint a break and steer clear of any activities that can worsen the injured tendon. The last thing that you want is to be nearly healed from a tennis elbow injury just to turn it into a far worse overuse injury by meddling with your recovery timeframe by not giving your arm proper rest. Always listen to your clinician in regard to when the right time is to continue 'business as usual.'

Tips to Prevent Tennis Elbow

Now that you know what tennis elbow is, along with what its symptoms and treatment options look like, you should have a clearer understanding as to how to prevent this ailment from happening to you in the first place. Luckily, there are a few precautions that one can take to ensure they aren't vulnerable to developing this problem.

  1. Use Proper Technique: Many cases of tennis elbow, especially that of athletes, are the result of a consistently improper stroke technique. Engaging in repetitive movement is bad enough for your wrist muscles, but when you're playing your racquet sport wrong you're risking even worse trouble.
  2. Check Your Equipment: Different tools (like a tennis racket, for argument's sake) are made for those of different strengths and sizes. For that reason, make sure that whatever you're using is suitable for you specifically, and don't try to use equipment that doesn't suit your frame and capabilities.
  3. Warm-Up Properly: Before engaging in any kind of activity requiring repetitive movements, be sure to do warm-up exercises. Just by warming up, you can reduce the risk factors that cause you to get tennis elbow as well as a slew of other conditions.
  4. Engage in Strength Training: By including muscle stimulation techniques into your routine, your forearm muscles will improve in health overtime by a large sum. Whether this be weight lifting or some other form of strength training, always be sure to know your limitations and boundaries to reduce pain.

Get Your Tennis Elbow Treated Today

If you read the list of symptoms and vulnerabilities and thought to yourself that any of it sounds familiar, then it's certainly a good idea to get a second, professional opinion.

If you're looking for a quick and reliable source of treatment for not only tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) but other related conditions, consider taking a look at the wide array of services offered at Sports Medicine & Joint Replacement Specialists. Your pain won't wait- so you shouldn't either! Schedule an appointment online with us today and get back to the things you love!