Tennis elbow treatment

What is a tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow is a condition which gives rise to pain and weakness in the tendons in the elbow which attach the muscles of the forearm with the outer elbow bone. It is often associated with increased periods of unaccustomed strenuous activity with the forearm muscles. Common examples may be an increase in computer use (especially if there is a poor ergonomic setup), DIY tasks involving gripping and twisting with the wrist/ hand and sometimes racket sports.

What does it involve?

Your consultant will examine the elbow, and may use imaging technology to view the joint and rule out other causes of pain. You may be prescribed medication to treat the pain and inflammation. You will be required to rest your elbow and abstain from sports or heavy activities for a short time, and you may have to wear a splint to support your elbow.

You may be required to attend physiotherapy sessions which is often a very effective and evidenced based treatment for tennis elbow. Exercises involve gradually strengthening exercises for the forearm muscles which gradually increase the amount of load, thereby strengthening the affected tendon. 

In some cases, an operation will be required to release the inflamed tendon, debride it and repair where necessary.

When will I recover?

Depending on the treatment required you should be able to return home the same day, but your recovery time is dependent on the severity of the injury. Your consultant will advise you and answer any questions you may have.

If a surgical release is considered, this is a generally safe procedure but there are some potential complications you should be aware of.  These affect a very small percentage of patients.

  • Infection can occur although our theatres have ultra-clean air operating conditions keeping infection rates to the minimum.
  • Blood clots are possible after any operation and are more common in patients with some pre-existing medical conditions. However, again they affect a very small percentage of patients and have well established treatments including aspirin.
  • Very rarely, damage to the nerves around the elbow leading to numbness, pain and in some cases weakness in the hand - this usually settles on its own. 
  • There may be continued pain in the elbow following the surgical release.

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