Pain and swelling in the elbow are two symptoms that should never be ignored. The longer you leave problems with the elbow or any of the joints to worsen, the more difficult it becomes to use your arm for everyday activities. Eating, picking up items, brushing your teeth, cleaning, and other activities will be difficult to perform. You also run the risk of further injuring yourself when ignoring the pain and swelling present from tennis elbow. That’s why it’s important to speak with the sports medicine team at OrthoBethesda in Arlington as soon as possible.
There are plenty of treatment methods available for tennis elbow that don’t involve surgery, which is usually the last option. Physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, rest, ice, elevation, and other at-home treatments can help reduce the pain and swelling caused by tennis elbow. It is a very treatable condition but once it occurs, it should be monitored and treated by a medical professional at our hospital.
Stop suffering from this condition by scheduling an appointment with our orthopedic team in Arlington today. We can provide you with more information about the causes and treatment options for this problem.
The Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
Patients between the ages of 30 and 50 are most at-risk for suffering tennis elbow or any other type of physical issue involving muscles, a nerve, or tendon, wrist, or hand. Injuries can easily lead to problems with the elbow, which is why you should understand the symptoms of these conditions so you can point them out to a doctor. At the onset of such an injury, you will likely suffer from a mild pain that turns sharper. The pain will likely get worse when you try to hold something.
Other symptoms of tennis elbow include:
- Weakened strength to grip things with your hands
- A burning sensation present at the edge of the elbow
- Difficulty using a wrench or shaking hands
Many patients experience pain relief by wearing an elbow brace, however, if pain persists you should seek medical care at OrthoBethesda.
What Causes Tennis Elbow?
Almost every case of tennis elbow is caused by repetitive motion. This is a condition experienced by many patients, including those who play sports or use tools at work regularly. Repeated contractions of forearm muscles used to straighten and bend the hand and wrist are what cause tears in forearm muscle tendons on the outside of the elbow.
There are many causes of tennis elbow that include the following:
- Playing tennis
- Driving screws
- Using plumbing tools
- Using a computer mouse often
- Cutting cooking materials, especially meat (using a meat slicer or working as a butcher)
The Risk Factors Leading to Tennis Elbow
Everyone can develop tennis elbow at just about any age, but there are certain risk factors that can increase your chances of developing this common injury, including:
- Age (3o to 50)
- Sports (racket sports, especially if you have a poor stroke)
- Occupation (cooks, butchers, painters, plumbers, and carpenters are most likely to develop these conditions)
Diagnosing Tennis Elbow
The surgeon at our Virginia center will need to conduct a physical examination of you in order to determine if you have tennis elbow and what the course of treatment will be, if any. Describing your elbow pain is one way for a doctor to determine if you have tennis elbow or not. Every patient deals with elbow issues differently, which is why we create an individualized orthopedic treatment plan that can be carried out over a period of months.
During the exam with the orthopedic surgeon at our Virginia center, your elbow will be moved and pressure will be applied to find where the pain is present the most. The doctor might also ask you to move your hand, wrist, forearm, and fingers in various directions to examine your condition. The doctor will want as much information from you as possible, including what your profession is and how active you are in your life.
X-rays won’t always be ordered, but they could help tell a deeper story about the pain you’ve been suffering. If x-rays aren’t helpful, the doctor could order more imaging tests to find the source of the pain and to help develop a treatment plan that could include physical therapy, elbow surgery, medicine, or at-home treatment methods.
Treating Your Tennis Elbow and Joint Pain
Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, can be treated in many different ways. The doctor, after examining you, might often recommend at-home orthopedic treatment methods before looking into surgery for your conditions. Treating the pain in your elbow at home can be done with the following orthopedic methods:
- Avoid activities that cause elbow pain
- Take over the counter pain relief medications you can purchase at any store
- Apply ice to the elbow four times per day for 15 minutes at a time
- If you must partake in activities, make sure your orthopedic repetitive motions are done in the correct form
Treating Tennis Elbow with Surgery
Elbow surgery is always an option when dealing with elbow pain because of lateral epicondylitis. Playing sports can happen again after undergoing surgery, but we recommend that you go through physical therapy first for a couple of months. Surgery for elbow pain can help you get back your range of motion for work and outside activities.
Elbow surgery is usually not recommended unless the patient has tried multiple other treatment methods that do not involve surgery for tennis elbow. Medicine, non-surgical treatment, and care from the OrthoBethesda sports medicine team should happen for at least six months to one year before elbow surgery is decided at a pre-surgery appointment for your elbow.
There are two common options for elbow surgery, including open elbow surgery and arthroscopic surgery. These options depend on the severity of the injury and your preference. Rest prior to the procedure is very important.
Other Treatment Procedures for Tennis Elbow
When a patient visits our center for tennis elbow treatments other than surgery, the most common ones include the following:
- Ultrasonic tenotomy (TENEX procedure): A needle will be inserted under the skin of the patient and into the damaged area of the elbow under ultrasound guidance. Ultrasonic energy vibrates the needle so quickly that the damaged tendon is liquified and then removed via suction from the area.
- Injections: Prior to undergoing surgery for your injuries, the doctor might recommend injecting something into the damaged tendon from your tennis elbow. Injections from this type of care could include Botox, platelet-rich plasma, or prolotherapy. The procedure known as dry needling can also be used to treat elbow pain for lateral care. This procedure involves a needle penetrating the damaged tendon in multiple places by the sports medicine team.
Recovering from Your Surgery to Relieve Elbow Pain
If you elect to undergo surgery for your elbow problems with our sports medicine team because of injuries, it’s important to note that the recovery period is quite long. Treatment for your elbow or tendon problems not long after suffering an injury will lower that recovery time and help you get back to a normal life.
Your arm will need to be kept in a sling for anywhere from seven to 10 days following surgery on your elbow. To ease pain, keep it elevated whenever sitting down or lying in bed. This will also reduce swelling in the lateral portion of your arm. Don’t forget to apply ice to the affected area and change the bandage as recommended by the doctor following surgery.
Around 10 days after surgery you will visit the doctor to have the stitches removed. A smaller brace will be issued that you will need to wear for at least another two weeks. A family member will likely need to assist you with tasks that require the use of two hands during the early recovery period because you will be discouraged from using both arms at the same time. Rest is vital to your recovery.
Sports Medicine Focused Exercises During Recovery
Exercises during orthopedic recovery are very important, but be sure you get enough rest in between them so as not to reinjure yourself. You should follow the instructions from the doctor so that you can improve your range after surgery. Some examples of exercises include the following:
- Mobility exercises for the upper limbs
- Static arm cycles
- Using sponges or putty to perform hand-squeezing exercises
- Using wrist weights or dumbbells to strengthen the arm
The majority of people who undergo surgery for tennis elbow will not have to undergo surgery a second time. It is still possible for you to experience pain after the completion of a rehab period following your procedure. If this happens, it’s best to speak with your physician about other possible underlying issues in the elbow, including a rotator cuff injury.
Schedule an Appointment at OrthoBethesda Today
The specialists at OrthoBethesda are trusted throughout the region when it comes to tennis elbow surgery and other orthopedic issues. Whether we work with you using non-surgical or surgical methods, we will ensure that you understand what your risks are with the treatment methods used and your recovery time. IF you are in or near Arlington, VA, call us today at (301) 530-1010 to schedule a surgical consultation with our specialists to discuss your options or for more information.