Tennis Elbow 101
Lateral epicondylitis, also known as tennis elbow, is an extremely common cause of elbow pain. Tennis elbow is caused by a combination of inflammation and degeneration. Tennis elbow pain is felt on the side of the elbow and can be worsened by extension of the wrist and heavy gripping. Some patients report the sensation of weakness of grip. Evaluation of tennis elbow typically requires an examination and x-ray films of the elbow. In certain circumstances, MRI scan of the elbow can be of benefit.
First-line treatment for tennis elbow consists of ice, NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naxproxen, meloxicam), and activity modifications. Patients are advised to refrain from any heavy gripping, as well as twisting. Patients can also perform home stretching exercises for the elbow, as well as attend physical therapy. Physical therapy may include ultrasound treatment for the elbow in addition to stretching. Many patients also benefit from the use of a tennis elbow strap. It is advised to ensure proper placement of the strap in order to increase effectiveness. If patients have persisting symptoms following the above conservative measures, injection with steroid can be considered. Steroid is a potent anti-inflammatory that may aide inflammation and pain. Last resort treatment for tennis elbow can involve surgical intervention, however a large majority of patients experience significant relief from conservative measures alone.