Between 1-3% of Americans struggle with tennis elbow (also known as lateral epicondylitis) and it most commonly affects adults between 30 to 50. Contrary to what many people probably believe, anyone can develop tennis elbow, not just athletes. However, if you’re struggling with tennis elbow, it’s most likely that the only question on your mind is “How is tennis elbow treated?”
In this article, we’ll be discussing tennis elbow, symptoms and causes, and how we treat this condition at the Center for Sports Medicine and Wellness in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania.
What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow is an injury caused by overuse. It develops when repetitive arm motions cause tendons to become overloaded. This can lead to these tendons becoming inflamed, degenerated, and potentially even torn. Because this condition is caused by repetitive arm motions, it typically affects a person’s dominant side.
It most commonly affects tennis players who grip their rackets too tightly, which is how it became known as tennis elbow, but it can affect professional and recreational athletes in multiple sports as well as people working in certain professions, such as:
- Baseball and softball players
- Tennis, squash, pickleball, and racquetball players
- Assembly line workers and auto mechanics
- Butchers and chefs
- Carpenters, cleaners, painters, and plumbers
- Gardeners and landscapers
Golfer’s Elbow vs. Tennis Elbow
While golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow have similar names, these are two separate conditions that affect the elbow in different ways. Tennis elbow affects the lateral epicondyle tendon, which is the outer part of the elbow. Golfer’s elbow affects the medial epicondyle tendon, which is the inner part of the elbow. The medical term for golfer’s elbow is medial epicondylitis, whereas the medical term for tennis elbow is lateral epicondylitis.
The symptoms of golfer’s elbow are different as well. People with golfer’s elbow have inner elbow pain that radiates down the arm, which may be accompanied by finger numbness and/or tingling.
However, golfers can develop tennis elbow and tennis players can develop golfer’s elbow.
What Causes It?
In the previous section, we mentioned that this is caused by repetitive arm movements, but now we’ll explain why this happens.
It all begins with repetitive arm movements, like the motions used in tennis. This motion can eventually cause your forearm muscles to become fatigued. This becomes an issue because only one tendon attaches the forearm muscles to the lateral epicondyle (the bony bump on the outside of the elbow). As the muscle becomes fatigued, this tendon is forced to take on more stress. Eventually, the tendon becomes overloaded and becomes inflamed and painful, a condition known as tendinitis. If not treated, this overload can turn into tendinosis, which is a degenerative condition. Once tendonitis and tendinosis exist in the tendon, it may tear.
Although this condition typically develops over a period of time, a sudden injury to the arm or elbow can cause it as well. People can also develop this condition with no known cause. This is known as idiopathic tennis elbow and it’s very rare.
Anyone who regularly performs repetitive arm motions that vigorously use the forearms, wrists, or hands, can develop tennis elbow.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
Because this condition usually develops over time, symptoms usually set in slowly as well. It typically starts with pain that worsens over the course of weeks or months, before eventually exhibiting the following symptoms:
- Burning or pain in the outer elbow that may travel to the wrist and may worsen at night.
- Pain when twisting or bending your arm, such as when opening a jar.
- Stiffness or pain that’s felt when you extend your arm.
- A swollen elbow joint that’s tender to touch.
- Weakened grip when you try to hold something, such as a racket, pen, cup, or someone’s hand.
How is Tennis Elbow Treated?
The good news about tennis elbow is that about 95% of people with this condition can get better with nonsurgical treatment. In the case that nonsurgical treatment does not or cannot provide relief, minimally invasive procedures can treat tennis elbow as well while avoiding the risks of open surgery and allowing for quicker recovery.
At the Center for Sports Medicine and Wellness, we provide the following tennis elbow treatment:
- Bone Marrow Concentrate: This is a treatment that uses a patient’s own bone marrow to harvest stem cells. These stem cells can be used to stimulate the development of new tissue such as bone, cartilage, fat, and blood vessels, making it an effective in healing and treating conditions such as tennis elbow.
- Alpha 2 Macroglobulin Injections (PRP): Also known as platelet-rich plasma therapy, this treatment is made up of concentrated platelets derived from a patient’s own blood. The goal of of this treatment is functional repair of an injured tendon, muscles, or joint cartilage, allowing it to bear greater mechanical stress during activities without pain. These injections are often used in areas where it is difficult for blood to naturally go, promoting soft tissue and bone healing in difficult to heal areas.
- Autologous Stem Cell Injections (ASCI): ASCI utilizes a patient’s own stem cells, harvested from the patient’s bone marrow or fat. This is then injected into the target joint or tendon to activate the stem cells to turn into the tissue needed for repair.
- Tenex Tenotomy: Tenex Tenotomy is a procedure that uses minimally invasive technology to eliminate chronic tendon pain by specifically targeting and removing damaged tissue without the need for conventional surgery. Tenex removes the patient’s source of pain and stimualtes a renewed healing response. Patients can return home after this procedure, which doesn’t even require stitches.
- Perineural Superficial Injections (PSI): PSI treat inflamed and injured nerves. It’s been proven to be effective in treating patients suffering from chronic nerve pain as a result of trauma, arthritis, sports, overuse, occupational, and surgical injuries. PSI can decrease nerve impingement and inflammation, improving the mobility of muscles and musculoskeletal system while reducing pain, spasms, and tightness.
Get Non-Surgical Tennis Elbow Treatment in Delaware County
At the Center for Sports Medicine and Wellness, Dr. Shiple and Dr. Kephart are committed to providing our patients with the most effective and advanced, non-operative, and minimally invasive treatments.
Our doctors are authorities in non-operative orthopedic sports medicine and minimally invasive treatments. These treatments have been proven to have high effectiveness for many types of pain and injuries. The Center for Sports Medicine and Wellness is one of Delaware County’s premier practices for non-operative and minimally invasive sports medicine treatment.
If you’ve sustained a sports injury and are looking for a treatment that can get you back in the game with minimal downtime, contact us to learn more about our services or contact us to schedule an appointment by calling our office in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, at (610) 459-4200 or filling out our form. We welcome your inquiry and we look forward to helping you find relief from your pain!