Tennis Elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is a painful condition that occurs when some tendons originating from your elbow are overused or get inflamed, most commonly by repetitive wrist and forearm motions.
It is especially common in athletes who often repeat the same motion, such as tennis players. However, despite its name, tennis elbow could affect almost any adult. Plumbers, painters, carpenters, and butchers are among those whose vocations require repetitive motions that might develop into tennis elbow.
Tennis elbow can be excruciatingly painful and severely limit the range of motion.
If tennis elbow affects your quality of life, we at ACTIVATE Musculoskeletal Clinic in Kent provide a variety of non-invasive procedures/non-surgical therapies to treat it.
How Can a Diagnosis of Tennis Elbow be Made?
Tennis elbow is usually diagnosed clinically with by taking a detailed history and performing a clinical examination. The pain can spread from the outside of your elbow into your forearm and wrist. Other signs and symptoms include:
Burning sensation running up and down the arm or on the outside of the elbow.
Weakness in and painful wrist and finger movements
Increased pain with forearm-related activities (holding a glass, opening a door, extending the wrist and fingers).
An ultrasound scan performed in clinic can also help in confirming the diagnosis by visualising certain features. This is done at the same appointment.
What Are The Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow frequently heals on its own or other non-invasive options can help speed up the recovery process. Surgery may only be required in extreme situations. At ACTIVATE, we offer non-surgical or minimally invasive treatment alternatives that stimulate the recovery process, such as:
If your tennis elbow is causing significant or persistent pain, your GP may refer you to a physiotherapist. Physiotherapists are medical experts that use various techniques to help regain movement and strength. Suppose your symptoms are related to sports, particularly tennis; in that case, your physiotherapist may recommend that professionals assess your tennis technique and recommend some modifications.
Eccentric exercises, which involve slowly lowering your wrist after raising it, are especially beneficial. A forearm Tennis Elbow strap or brace may help to relieve pain, offload the strain on the tendon and allow for recovery.
Physiotherapy techniques could include strengthening, stretching, massage and manipulation to relieve pain and stiffness and increase blood flow. Additionally, activities to maintain your arm movement and improve your forearm muscles may also be suggested.
Corticosteroid and Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections are viable treatment options for people suffering from tennis elbow.
PRP includes concentrated platelets and growth factors in blood plasma that your body uses to repair injured tissue. These injections have been shown to speed up recovery and heal the tissues with poor blood supply such as tendons and ligaments.
During the procedure, a blood sample will be taken from you and placed in a centrifuge machine. This machine separates the platelets from the blood sample so they can be injected into the afflicted area with the help of ultrasound. The treatment typically takes 30 minutes and is safe and effective.
Corticosteroids have anti-inflammatory properties. The objective is to relieve pain and reduce inflammation, allowing sufficient rehabilitation and return to activities.
ACTIVATE provides both types of injections for the management of tennis elbow.
Stop undertaking activities that strain the effected muscles and tendons if you have tennis elbow.
If you use your arms at work to perform manual chores such as lifting, you may need to limit these activities until your arm pain resolves.
Alternatively, you may be able to change your movements such that they do not put a strain on your arm.
Consult with your employer about avoiding or changing tasks that may exacerbate your arm and worsen the pain.
Medications – Painkillers and Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
Pain medications such as paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen may help alleviate some of the pain and inflammation from tennis elbow.
NSAIDs are available as tablets or creams and gels (topical NSAIDs), which are applied directly to the painful part of your body instead of oral medications. Topical NSAIDs are can help to relieve inflammation and discomfort without causing systemic side effects, such as nausea and diarrhoea.
Some NSAIDs can only be obtained with a prescription. At our clinic, we can recommend appropriate NSAIDs for your condition and prescribe accordingly if indicated.
If you are complaining of Elbow pain, get in touch or book an appointment with Dr Mustafa Alnaib at ACTIVATE. See Dr Alnaib's video below talking about Tennis Elbow
About the Author: Dr. Mustafa Alnaib MBChB, MRCS, MSc, FEBOT is an orthopaedic surgeon, musculoskeletal doctor and Clinic Director at ACTIVATE Musculoskeletal Clinic in Kent.