Tennis Elbow

What is Tennis Elbow? Also known as lateral epicondylitis, the tennis elbow is a medical term that describes a painful condition caused by overloaded tendons. Usually, this problem occurs due to repetitive motions of your arm and wrist.

Proper tennis elbow treatment combined with enough rest can help relieve pain resulting from this condition. In case the conservative treatment methods don’t work, or if tennis elbow symptoms persist, your physician might suggest surgery.

Tennis Elbow Anatomy

Three bones make up your elbow joint. They include the upper arm bone (humerus) and the other two bones in the forearm (radius and ulna). 

Bony bumps or epicondyles exist right at the bottom of the humerus. This is the location in your forearm where several muscles begin their course. There is also another bony bump just outside your elbow known as the lateral epicondyle.

The elbow joint is held together by a set of muscles, tendons and ligaments. Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis affects the tendons and muscles located in your forearm. 

Keep in mind that the tendons and muscles play an integral role in the extension of your fingers and wrist. Extensors of forearm tendons are responsible for attaching muscles to the bone. However, the tendon that is usually affected by the tennis elbow is referred to as the Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis or ECRB in short form. 

If you suspect that you have a tennis elbow problem, you can reach out to Dr. Christopher R. Sforzo at Sforzo | Dillingham | Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine for your tennis elbow diagnosis. Dr. Sforzo is one of the top board-certified Orthopedic Surgeons in the country. He is also a fellowship-trained professional specializing in both upper extremity and hand surgery.

Dr. Christopher R. Sforzo is experienced in providing expert care in tennis elbow treatment and other problems involving the arm, forearm, shoulder injuries, elbow, wrist and hand. Moreover, he performs many medical procedures using minimally invasive techniques that include arthroscopic rotator cuff repair, endoscopic carpal tunnel release and arthroscopic elbow and wrist surgical procedures.

Main Causes of Tennis Elbow

Check out these common causes that usually lead to the tennis elbow among different people:

  1. The repetitive nature of your forearm when using a plumbing tool can cause some fatigue to your arm. The more your muscles get tired, the more your tendons take the extra load, leading to inflammation and pain called tendinitis.
  2. Frequent arm movements cause muscles in your forearm to grow tired, causing what is called the elbow arm.
  3. The simple task of driving screws can cause pain or a burning sensation on your outer elbow. The sensation may become worse at night.
  4. Even though chopping cooking ingredients may seem like a simple task, it turns out to be a major cause of your tennis elbow condition. This is because of the repeated movement of your hands while cutting different cooking ingredients.
  5. Staying too long on a computer can have adverse effects not only on your eyesight but also on your forearm. In particular, moving the mouse repeatedly can lead to the tennis elbow. 
  6. If you don’t make a proper tennis stroke, you may end up experiencing a serious case of tennis elbow on your arms.
  7. If you have weak shoulders or weak wrist muscles, you are at risk of developing the tennis elbow condition.
  8. When practicing lawn tennis or table tennis, make sure to use the right racket. A short or tightly strung racket can be detrimental to your forearm.
  9. Most racquet sports can contribute to incidents of tennis elbow among some players.
  10. Failure to hit the ball on-center using a racket or playing with heavy balls are common causes of the tennis elbow among athletes.
  11. Although painting using a brush or roller may seem like the best option, the repetitive movement of your forearms may contribute to the beginning of the tennis elbow.
  12. Chainsaw operators spend their time moving their hands back and forth while holding this heavy machine. The movement of their forearms with the machine in their hands is a major contributor to the tennis elbow condition.
  13. Most if not all hand tools make your work easier. Using these tools regularly can potentially affect tendons and muscles in your forearm, leading to the tennis elbow.
  14. The use of repeated hand motions among meat cutters, musicians, dentists and carpenters is likely to contribute to lateral epicondylitis.

Numerous studies indicate that tennis elbow results from the damage of a specific type of forearm muscle, especially when making a tennis groundstroke. Should you experience the tennis elbow at any given time, contact the right physician to handle your case.  

If your condition worsens, tennis elbow surgery may be necessary. Dr. Christopher R. Sforzo and Dr. Christopher L. Dillingham at Sforzo | Dillingham | Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine are highly recommended to check your condition. As an M.D. and a board-certified Orthopedic Surgeon, Christopher R. Dillingham is fellowship-trained in shoulder, hand and arm surgery.

Dr. Christopher Dillingham further specializes in the treatment of problems associated with carpal tunnel, cuff disorders, nerve injuries, arthritis surgery, fracture repair, tendon repair, foot and ankle disorders and joint replacement.

He is considered an expert and a leader when it comes to performing technically difficult surgical procedures regarding total reverse shoulder problems. In addition, the doctor applies minimally invasive surgical techniques to perform procedures such as arthroscopic surgery of the elbow, shoulder, and wrist, including endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery.


Symptoms of Tennis Elbow


Here are the tennis elbow symptoms to look out for: 

Outside elbow pain when….

  • Shaking hands when you grip a heavy object
  • Excruciating pain every time you turn a doorknob
  • Acute pain when holding a coffee cup
  • Feeling some burning sensation or pain on the outer elbow. The pain may also travel to your wrist or get worse during the night.
  • Feeling some pain when bending or twisting your arm. This kind of pain is felt when turning a doorknob or opening a jar.
  • Difficulties when extending your arm due to stiffness and pain.
  • Swelling around the elbow joint. In extreme cases, your swollen elbow may become tender to touch.
  • Weakened grip when holding items such as a racquet, pen, wrench, or someone’s hand.

Once you notice the above-mentioned symptoms, you should seek immediate medical intervention. Contact Dr. Christopher R. Sforzo at Sforzo | Dillingham | Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine for diagnosis and tennis elbow treatment. He is also a board-certified healthcare provider and a fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon with many years of experience in his profession.


How to Prevent Tennis Elbow


When it comes to preventing cases of tennis elbow, you need to apply the following simple techniques:

  1. Make sure that your arms are as flexible and strong as possible
  2. Limit repetitive movements when performing your usual tasks
  3. Do a little warm-up prior to exercising, including some repetitive movements or using your arms for sports
  4. Choose the most appropriate equipment when playing a racquet sport


Tennis Elbow Diagnosis

For an effective and accurate diagnosis of your tennis elbow condition, consider taking an X-ray, MRI or EMG.

  1. X-ray: Tests performed by X-rays can provide clear images showing dense structures like the bone. Through these images, your doctor will be able to rule out the possibility of arthritis in your elbow.
  2. MRI: Also referred to as magnetic resonance imaging scan, MRI plays a significant role in providing images of your body’s tissues, muscles or tendons. Through the use of MRI, your physician can determine the extent of your tendon damage or help rule out any other injuries.
  3. EMG: Electromyography or EMG can help perform your tennis elbow diagnosis to rule out incidents of nerve compression. Typically, several nerves run around your elbow, so symptoms of tennis elbow can be similar to those of nerve compression.


Tennis Elbow Surgery and Treatments


  1.     Nonsurgical Treatment

So far, the nonsurgical treatment has shown a tremendous improvement in approximately 90% of patients with tennis elbow problems. The treatment includes getting enough rest, taking some medications like ibuprofen, physical therapy, use of a tennis elbow brace, steroid injections, platelet-rich plasma and equipment checks. Alternatively, you can turn to tennis elbow physical exercise to speed up your recovery time.

  1.     Surgical Treatment 

If nonsurgical treatments don’t work for you, your physician may recommend surgery. The surgical procedures involve the removal of damaged muscles before reattaching healthy muscles to the affected area. Types of surgery used in tennis elbow treatments include open surgery and arthroscopic surgery using tiny instruments and small incisions. 

Following a successful surgery and before the tennis elbow surgery recovery, you can expect surgical risks such as infections, loss of strength, blood vessels and nerve damage, prolonged rehabilitation (tennis elbow exercises), loss of flexibility and sometimes patients need to undergo further surgery.

For a successful surgery, you can approach Dr. Christopher R. Sforzo at Sforzo | Dillingham | Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Sforzo is also a fellowship-trained shoulder, arm, elbow and forearm surgeon, specializing in such surgeries. Dr. Christopher R. Sforzo can also offer biological regenerative medicine injections, including regenerative treatments instead of surgery.

Tennis elbow can affect anyone besides athletes. Plumbers, butchers and carpenters are some of the people affected the most by this painful condition. Luckily, tennis elbow treatments can help you get back in shape within a short time. For more information, contact Sforzo I Dillingham I Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine today to schedule your appointment.