What is Tennis Elbow?
The condition "tennis elbow" (lateral epicondylits) is an injury to the tendons of the outer elbow which are mainly used when extending our wrist, as when using a tennis racket. The pain and inflammation from elbow tendonitis often results in time off work, or absence from sport.
Sufferers of tennis elbow are often in the 35-50 year old bracket, however, it can happen at any age. Usually the elbow will be painful to touch, and wrist and finger extension is difficult or painful too. Tennis elbow may be caused by an acute episode of prolonged activity, such as one long game of tennis, or it may be the result of frequent episodes of acute tennis elbow, resulting in a chronic inflammatory response.
Acute tennis elbow can be managed by seeing your GP for pain and anti inflammatory medication or your physio for ice massage and stretching treatments. In the case of chronic tennis elbow where non-surgical treatments may have failed, surgery is an option to relieve your pain and regain your strength.
Dr Manish Gupta is a highly regarded elbow surgeon skilled in repairing chronic tennis elbow conditions. The earlier you can see Dr Gupta about your condition, the better the chance of a successful surgical outcome.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow may have the following symptoms:
- Point tenderness on the outside of the elbow
- Pain extending from the elbow down the forearm when extending the wrist and fingers
- Weakness when extending the wrist and fingers
What Causes Tennis Elbow?
Acute tennis elbow is caused by a prolonged episode of wrist and finger extension, like holding a tennis racket or typing, where the activity continues into fatigue and beyond. As the activity continues, the muscle tendons of the elbow experience swelling and wear against the bones of the elbow and do not get a chance to recover before becoming damaged and inflamed.
Chronic tennis elbow is where the accute episodes repeat frequently, over 6 months or more, causing persistent elbow pain and ongoing impact on your day to day life.
Sports Injuries Causing Tennis Elbow
Tennis is the obvious sport responsible for causing tennis elbow, however, racket sports of all kinds such as squash, badminton and ping pong may cause tennis elbow if the activity is prolonged for long enough. The heavier the object being hit against the racket, the quicker the onset of the condition.
Workplace Injuries Causing Tennis Elbow
Painters, plasterers, capenters and also office workers who have poor ergonomics while typing commonly experience tennis elbow. Cooks and butchers, who are lifting heavy pans and meat cleavers, frequency chopping, cutting, grating or stirring as part of their job can also experience tennis elbow due to the where the weight and frequency of manipulating such items.
Diagnosing Tennis Elbow
Diagnosing tennis elbow is a multi-step procedure:
- Taking of the patient's history to determine the cause of the injury
- Understanding it in the context of the patient's age
- Consulting about the need to use their elbow again quickly
A physical examination including observing and testing the patient's elbow is useful to determine the specific location of pain, any bruising and or loss of function of the elbow. Pain on the outside of the elbow and and loss of stength when extending the wrist and fingers are positive indicators of tennis elbow. The waiters tip stretch test is a specific physical examination test used to confirm tennis elbow. A comparison to the patient's non affected side is always useful to determine the patient's sense of normal.
Imaging such as X-Ray and MRI and further diagnostic tests are used to determine whether there are any fractures contributing to the condition and to determine if the problem is a more extensive one.
Treatment for Tennis Elbow
Treatment of tennis elbow should always begin with a thorough diagnosis of your condition to understand the severity in the context of your age and how your elbow function may impact your job, sport, and life.
Between 80-95% of acute tennis elbow conditions can be improved by simple conservative treatments. Things like NSAID medications, taping, bracing, stretching and avoiding painful activities should improve your condition.
In patients suffering chronic tennis elbow, if conservative measures do not help the condition, surgery may be the right option for you. Tennis Elbow Surgical Repair is a very small operation providing rapid relief.
Dr Manish Gupta has performed many surgical tennis elbow repairs, which is a common and simple procedure offering sufferers of pain rapid relief. If you are worried about the pain from your tennis elbow, Dr Gupta can help you. Please call us on 02 9687 8344 for a consultation or complete our online enquiry form.