By: Michelle Duclos, MA, ATC, LAT, CES
The quick answer is tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis or elbow tendonitis is an injury that develops due to overuse of the forearm, wrist or hand. Tennis elbow is more common with tennis players because of the repetitive stress on the elbow tendons during a backhand swing, but it can occur with anyone who overuses the elbow. Tennis elbow typically causes pain and tenderness along the outside of the elbow. Some other activities which may lead to tennis elbow include excessive typing or computer work.
This video gives a good visual of what happens to the elbow of someone suffering from lateral epicondylitis and why braces for tennis elbow are helpful and who tennis elbow braces may help.
Tennis elbow may start with soreness in the outside bony part of the elbow. There may also be soreness in the muscles around the outside of the elbow in the forearm. Pain and soreness may be noticed more with gripping or bending the wrist forward or backwards. One sign that you may be getting tennis elbow is point tenderness pain over the outside of your elbow. Usually, this is related to some type of change that you have made. Changing your racket, changing the level of how your racket is strung, changing your grip on your racket or sometimes even changing a tennis technique of your serve, forehand or backhand. Please watch this informational video about Tennis Elbow.
The quick answer is initially, ice and anti-inflammatory medications may be helpful. Because tennis elbow tends to occur with repetitive overuse movements, it may be necessary to modify activities, such as taking a break from tennis or changing the position of the work station to decrease the stress on the elbow. If you made a change in your racket, you might want to go back to how it was before.
Physical therapy can be helpful to improve the mobility of the tendons and address the swelling. Physical therapy may include massage, The Graston technique, stretching, strength training and ultrasound or laser therapy. We been very successful at JOI Rehab with a combination of all of these treatments to get you back on the courts. Bracing or splinting may be appropriate to limit abnormal stresses and allow the tendons to heal.
Most of the time, conservative treatment for elbow tendonitis is all that is needed. In some cases, further medical care may be required. Other interventions may include a steroid injection, Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injections, or Stem Cell injections. Surgery may be required for severe cases.
Bracing for tennis elbow can limit the amount of stress on the injured area to allow it to heal properly. A cushioned velcro elbow strap (Chopat Strap) is common. The strap applies pressure over the tendons near the outside of the elbow and alters the direction of pull on those tendons, decreasing the stress on the injured area. JOI supplies Chopat Straps for patients with Tennis Elbow who want to continue to play tennis or perform other physical activity. There are several types of tennis elbow braces which are available. The most important aspect is to not wear these braces too tight or while you sleep as to decrease the circulation in this area. In order for the tendons to heal, they need a good blood supply. Wearing braces too tight or for extended periods of time will certainly not help this process.
Athletic Trainers often tape the wrists of athletes with tennis elbow. The tape limits wrist movements which decreases the stresses on the tendons at the elbow.
Bracing or splinting the wrist is another way to treat tennis elbow A brace for tennis elbow typically involves the wrist. Bracing the wrist can limit excessive stress on the tendons which attach to the outside of the elbow. The Hand Therapy Specialists at JOI may design a custom splint to “cock up” or slightly extend to wrist to decrease stress on the elbow tendons. These braces do not allow athletes to continue to play but may be helpful for those who have tennis elbow pain during computer work.
Recovery time may vary from person to person. Mild cases, it may take a week or two. Others may have the pain for a long period. It is important to seek professional care if the pain does not resolve quickly. Going back to playing tennis too quickly or not with a gradual return will certainly result in the return of your pain and symptoms. A gradual return to tennis shots which don't cause symptoms is the first step in the right direction. Always make sure to ice right after you play.
To schedule an in-person or Telemedicine appointment with an Orthopaedic Tennis Elbow Specialist, please call JOI-2000, schedule online or click below. Go Where the Pro's Go for their tennis rehab!