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Tennis elbow can create pain and weakness in the elbow tendons. We look at its common symptoms and how it can be treated.
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. Although rackets sports players can develop a common extensor tendinopathy, the majority of individuals who develop symptoms do so because of prolonged, repetitive activities including warehouse or desk-based work, often with a poor ergonomic setup.
Symptoms are aggravated by any activity which requires repeated use of the wrist extensor muscles. Common examples may include working at a computer (keyboard or mouse work) or gripping, lifting, or carrying tasks.
Depending on your symptoms, other diagnostic tests might be used to rule out other causes of your elbow pain. These tests include an elbow X-Ray, an ultrasound or an MRI. Your doctor will explain these tests to you if they are needed.
If you are coming to us directly (rather than via GP or insurance referral), we offer very competitively priced self-pay packages, along with payment plan options to help make private healthcare accessible and affordable for all.
There are several different ways a tennis elbow can be treated.
Painkillers might help manage your pain. Paracetamol or an anti-inflammatory medicine like ibuprofen often reduces pain, helping to improve your mobility.
A heating pad could help relax your joints, improving your mobility and reducing pain. Alternatively, placing a cold compress on your elbow throughout the day could numb your elbow, reducing pain and providing relief.
Steroids can reduce inflammation, so injecting this medicine into the affected area may ease your symptoms. You might be given a local anaesthetic for the procedure.
The relief offered by steroid injections is temporary, so you will likely have to have them every few months.
Circle Health Group physiotherapists can work with you to create a programme of exercises that will help your elbow to get back to normal. Starting off gently, these physical therapies will help to build strength and restore motion to your arm.
Your physical therapist will recommend strengthening exercises for you to do several times a day. It is important to follow your exercise regime diligently to reap its benefits. Learn more about physiotherapy and elbow pain exercises here.
if you are continuing to use your affected arm, you may need to wear a brace. A compression strap can help to minimise tension and ease stress on the affected elbow.
Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) involves the use of a medical device to pass shockwaves through the skin to the injured part of the body.
A course of ESWT usually requires three to four sessions, each taking about 30 minutes, which in addition to the ESWT, includes advice on retraining weak muscles related to the injury.
ESWT is carried out at an outpatient appointment and requires no injections, medication or surgery.
If you have tried other treatments across several months and are still in significant pain, your Consultant might recommend elbow surgery.
During the operation, your surgeon will remove any damaged tendons from your elbow. This should take around half an hour, and you should be able to get back to your regular activities within a few weeks, depending on how the elbow heals.
You may be required to attend physiotherapy sessions which is often a highly 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.
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.