Tennis elbow is commonly associated with tennis players because of its name, yet the truth is that tennis elbow can affect anyone. In fact, only a small percentage of patients with tennis elbow develop tendon problems because of playing tennis. People in the greater Atlanta, GA area that suffer from tennis elbow can seek treatment at The Hand Center at Crawford Plastic Surgery. Dr. Steven Bailey will carefully diagnose the condition and determine the ideal treatment options to pursue.

What Is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) occurs when the tendons in a person's elbow are overworked. Over time, this can lead to pain around the elbow that eventually spreads along the arm. If tennis elbow goes untreated, it can affect a person's grip and make it difficult to lift objects.

Tennis elbow is common among adults between the ages of 30 and 50. It's been estimated that up to 3 percent of the population suffers from tennis elbow.

Symptoms of Tennis Elbow

Some of the most common symptoms of tennis elbow include:

  • Pain or burning sensations on the outside of the elbow
  • Pain that radiates from the elbow to the forearm and wrist
  • Changes in grip strength
  • Difficulty lifting objects

People with tennis elbow may also notice pain in the arm when doing the daily tasks they used to take for granted, such as turning a doorknob, holding a mug in one hand, or shaking people's hands.

Causes of Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow is the result of repetitive stress on the tendons and muscles of the forearm. Over time, the repeated stress on the tendons can lead to tears, inflammation, and pain. The tendon that typically causes tennis elbow is known as the Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis (ECRB). The ECRB tends to be at higher risk because of its position relative to other structures of the arm.

In addition to athletes, tennis elbow can affect the following people:

  • Automotive workers
  • Butchers
  • Chefs, cooks, and those in food preparation
  • Plumbers
  • Electricians
  • Carpenters
  • Gardeners and landscapers
  • Painters
  • Musicians

Tennis Elbow Diagnosis

There are a number of tests that can be performed in order to diagnose tennis elbow. When visiting our hand surgery center, a patient can expect a full examination of the hand, wrist, and elbow. This will be done to assess grip strength, pain, and the nature of the problem the patient is experiencing.

X-rays can be taken to assess the structures of the elbow area. An MRI or electromyography (EMG) may be used to rule out neck problems or nerve problems as the cause of the arm pain.

Treatment of Tennis Elbow

Up to 95 percent of patients who experience tennis elbow can be treated without surgery. These non-surgical options tend to focus on pain management and restoring motion and strength to the arm. Common non-surgical treatments may include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, use of a forearm brace, and steroid injections around the elbow.

If non-surgical treatments prove ineffective, surgery may be recommended. Surgical treatment for tennis elbow will typically involve removal of damaged tissue and the reattachment of the muscle to the bone.

Recovery after Tennis Elbow Surgery

Following surgery for tennis elbow, patients will need to get ample rest early on to ensure proper healing and recovery. Patients will often wear a splint in order to keep the arm immobilized. Once the splint is removed, patients will start an exercise and physical rehabilitation program to restore flexibility and strength to the treated arm.

Contact The Hand Center at Crawford Plastic Surgery to learn more about tennis elbow and the treatment options available.