What is Tennis Elbow?
The diagnostic name for tennis elbow is lateral epicondylitis. The lateral epicondyle is a bony landmark on the outside of the arm bone, at the elbow joint. The “itis” added to the base word epicondyle indicates there is some type of inflammatory process that has occurred at that location. When these terms are broken down they mean inflammation of the outside of the elbow, typically refering to the muscles or tendons on the back of the forearm and their attachments to the arm (lateral epicondyle).
What Causes Tennis Elbow?
Several things may lead to the development of tennis elbow. These may include sport and non-sport related overuse or repetitive motion activities.
- Backhand swing in tennis
- Repetitive gripping and twisting
- Using a hammer or vibrating tools
- Overuse or strain of the arm
Continued stress to the area of the lateral epicondyle causes damage at the tendinous attachement of the extensor group of muscles of the forearm. This damage creates an inflammatory process which causes degeneration of the tendon and over time calcification of the area occrs. If the stress continues to be applied to the area a bone spur may develop due to excess calcium deposition.
What are the Symptoms of Tennis Elbow?
Typically people notice pain in the outer portion of the elbow and it may radiate into the forearm toward the hand. Pain may be limited at the onset to just during activity.
If the issue does not resolve it can progress to constant pain, even when not stressing the area. Many people experience noticeable swelling in the area, especially immediately after occurrence (acute phase). Pain is usually made worse when bending the elbow, bending the wrist back (especially against resistance), gripping (handshakes), or andy twisting motions of the forearm and wrist (using a screwdriver).
How to Prevent Tennis Elbow?
- Modification or avoidance of aggravating activity
- Stretches for the forearm muscles
- Mild strengthening exercises for the forearm muscles
- Avoid or reduce repetitive motions
- Avoid working in the extremes or end points of motion in the elbow and wrist
Tennis Elbow Prevention Pathway
The art and science of adapting your physical workspace and surroundings to function best with your specific needs.
Proper posture, position and motion are critical to prevention. It impossible to achieve any of these without the proper workstation setup and healthy mobility.
The practice of performing mobilization and exercises to maintain proper functioning of the musculoskeletal system (joints, muscles and everything connecting them).
Warm-ups, stretches and strengthening exercises specifically designed to address risks to your mobility health from your environment (work and home).
Injury and strain due to fatigue is very common and avoidable with proper rest intervals. Microbreaks during activities decrease injury risks.
It doesn’t take a lot of downtime to allow your body to recover and reset. Depending on the activity rest may just be one minute for every twenty minutes of activity.
How is Tennis Elbow treated?
Tennis elbow is often a “self-limiting” condition, meaning it will eventually resolve itself without treatment. The question is, how long until it resolves on it’s own? That can be quite variable for individuals based on their history, activity levels, work activities, cause and severity of the condition. Conservative care including OTC medicines for pain, massage, dry needling and physical therapy typically resolve the condition. Surgery may be necessary in difficult or resistant cases that persist for a year or more.
The True Costs of Tennis Elbow?
- To You: direct costs of maximizing insurance deductibles and out of pocket max plus the costs of reduced quality of life, lost productivity due to time away from work, and potential disability.
- To Employers: direct costs of $1000-$16,000 per case plus the cost of quality, lost productivity, absenteeism, and turnover.
- To the U.S. Economy: direct care costs over $22 billion every year plus the costs of lost productivity and disability.
How Common is Tennis Elbow?
FAQs About Tennis Elbow
Conservative care including OTC medication, massage, physical therapy, supports and cortisone injections can cost from $1000-$5000. Surgical intervention is estimated to start at $16000.