Tennis elbow is the common name for the elbow condition lateral epicondylitis. Tennis elbow is an overuse injury that causes elbow pain due to inflammation of the tendons that attach to the bone prominent on the outside of the elbow. It is a painful condition occurring from repeated muscle contractions in the forearm that leads to inflammation and microtears.
Tennis elbow is more common in individuals playing sports, but may also be caused by direct trauma with a fall, car accident, or work injury. Other common causes of tennis elbow include any activity that requires repetitive motion of the forearm such as:
- Lifting heavy objects
- Playing musical instruments
Patients with tennis elbow may experience symptoms including:
- Elbow pain that gradually worsens
- Elbow pain while grasping objects
- Weak or painful grip
- Pain exacerbated in the elbow when the wrist is bent back
Your physician will evaluate tennis elbow by:
- Medical History
- Physical Examination
- Diagnostic procedures, such as X-rays
Your physician will recommend conservative treatment options to treat the symptoms. These may include:
- Limit use and rest the arm from activities that worsen symptoms.
- Splints or braces may be ordered to decrease stress on the injured tissues.
- Ice packs to the elbow for swelling.
- Avoid activities that tend to bring on the symptoms and increase stress on the tendons.
- Anti-inflammatory medications and/or steroid injections to treat pain and swelling may be ordered.
- Occupational Therapy may be ordered for strengthening and stretching exercises to the forearm once your symptoms have decreased.
- Pulsed Ultrasound may be utilized to increase blood flow and healing to the injured tendons.
If conservative treatment options fail to resolve the condition, and the symptoms persist for 6-12 months, your doctor may recommend a surgery known as lateral epicondyle release surgery. Dr. Berschback will decide whether to perform your surgery in the traditional manner or endoscopically. Traditional surgery for tennis elbow involves up to a 2″ incision in the elbow area, whereas arthroscopic surgery for tennis elbow involves one or two smaller incisions and the use of an arthroscope with a camera for viewing internal structures. The television camera attached to the endoscope displays the image of the joint on a television screen, allowing the surgeon to look throughout the elbow joint at cartilage, ligaments, nerves, and bone.
The benefits of endoscopic elbow surgery compared to the alternative, open elbow surgery, include:
- Smaller incisions
- Minimal soft tissue trauma
- Less elbow pain
- Faster healing time
- Lower infection rate
- Less scarring
- Earlier mobilization
- Usually performed as outpatient day surgery
Dr. Berschback serves the Eau Claire, Altoona, and Chippewa Falls area. He will help decide which options are best for you, depending on your specific circumstances. Contact Dr. Berschback to learn more!