What is tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)?
Lateral epicondylitis or tennis elbow refers to the anatomical location of pain that develops because of chronic overuse (or sometimes injury) to the tissue at the lateral (outer) portion of the elbow. Structurally, the tendon that is activated with forceful gripping at the outer elbow called the extensor carpi radialis brevis (and to a lesser extent the extensor digitorum communis) leads to an injury causing pain and tenderness to the touch at the bony outer tip of the elbow called the lateral epicondyle. Because of the high degree of load transmitted through this very tendon with repetitive activities such as gripping a tennis racket, the condition has been coined the “tennis elbow”. Tennis elbow is commonly seen in tennis players, but can occur in non-athletes, golfers, and in injured workers.
Tennis elbow is mostly caused by overusing your forearm due to a repetitive or strenuous activity. It can also sometimes occur after an acute injury.
The diagnosis of tennis elbow is primarily a clinical one, meaning based on symptoms and physical exam from your orthopedic surgeon. Tennis elbow is further classified with advanced imaging options such as MRI to detect partial or full thickness tearing of the tendons near the elbow joint. If you’re experiencing elbow pain that worsens after using the arm for lifting or high demand tasks such as gardening, golfing, or tennis, you may have tennis elbow. Furthermore, if you’re experiencing tenderness (pain to the touch) at the lateral epicondyle, you may have tennis elbow.
Once a diagnosis of tennis elbow has been concluded, treatment is dependent on the severity of your symptoms. Treatment may include:
- Activity modification
- Counterforce bracing
- Physical/occupational therapy
- Anti-inflammatory treatments
- Regenerative medicine (Stem-Cell or Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy)
- Surgical treatment for tennis elbow is recommended when all other therapies fail, and continued pain and disability persists.
Dr. Ajay C. Lall is a former dual sport NCAA collegiate athlete (football and track & field), American board certified, triple fellowship-trained expert orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hip arthroscopy, robotic hip replacement and cutting-edge regenerative medicine such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and Stem-Cell therapy. He treats non-athletes and athletes at all levels of play from collegiate to professional to the Olympic level. Dr. Lall is a world-renowned orthopedic surgeon who cares for all patients like family. Contact LALL Orthopedics + to schedule a consultation, receive the correct diagnosis, and undergo state-of-the-art treatment options.
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Ajay C. Lall, MD, MS, FAAOS
- Board Certified – Orthopedic Surgery
- Triple Fellowship Trained
- Performs over 750 Surgeries Per Year
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