Lateral epicondylitis, also known as tennis elbow, is one of the most common conditions seen by an orthopaedic surgeon. There is a group of muscles and tendons that allow for extension of the wrist and fingers. These muscles and tendons can be inflamed leading to pain and tenderness along the outside of the elbow.
This condition is usually the result of overuse from activities such as tennis and other reactional activities that require repetitive use of the forearms. It is believed that one of the main extensor muscles becomes weakened from chronic overuse, leading to small tears in its tendon attachment.
The symptoms of tennis elbow include pain, tenderness, and burning along the outer aspect of the elbow. This develops gradually. As the inflammation becomes greater, weakness with gripping objects can occur.
The diagnosis is made by taking a careful patient history and physical examination. An x-ray may be ordered to rule out any underlying bony abnormalities and arthritic changes to the elbow. Additional testing such as an MRI may also be ordered.
A large majority of patients do respond to non-surgical treatments. This includes activity modification, rest, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID), and physical therapy, bracing, and corticosteroid injections. Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injections are a newer treatment option available to some.
For those who fail to improve with non-surgical treatments, surgery may be recommended. Several different approaches and techniques are available to debride or remove the inflamed soft tissue. Success rates vary and recovery can take several months.