Tennis Elbow

Overview

What Is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow happens when there is inflammation in the cord-like structures (ligaments) that hold the bones and muscles of your elbow together. You may experience pain, soreness and muscle weakness that make it difficult to go about your regular activities.

Tennis elbow affects nearly 5 in 10 people who play tennis and other racquet sports. But this painful condition is not limited to athletes. Anyone participating in activities with repetitive forearm motions – including plumbers and gardeners – is at risk for tennis elbow. The good news is that if you’re in pain from tennis elbow, we can help you feel better.

Our team includes sports medicine doctors, orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists who are experienced in helping people overcome tennis elbow. Even if your symptoms are brand new, our expertise helps us rule out other conditions and make an accurate diagnosis.

We offer an array of nonsurgical treatments, including physical therapy and injections, to help you find relief. And for symptoms that just won’t quit, we also deliver exceptional surgical care.

The Aurora Difference

Expert Care for Tennis Elbow

Our orthopedic and sports medicine experts recognize how frustrating it can be when an injury like tennis elbow holds you back. At Aurora Health Care, we work hard to make sure you don’t have to wait to feel better. In fact, most people are able to get an appointment for a free injury evaluation within one business day. Find out more: Get sports health care.

Highlights of our program also include:

  • Team approach to care: Our sports medicine doctors, orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists work together to help you get the best possible care. In fact, you won’t need to keep track of your test results or what treatments you’ve tried -- our team shares this information as needed so you can focus on feeling better. Meet our sports health team.
  • Treatments that bring much needed relief: We tailor treatments based on your needs and the activities you enjoy. Most people feel better with rest and expert care from our physical therapists. We also offer injections to help you get relief from stubborn symptoms. But whatever you’re experiencing, we’ll make sure to explain all your options and together make a plan to help you get better. Find out more about our sports injury treatments.
  • Prevention: Our sports performance programs, like our strength training program, can help you avoid tennis elbow altogether. Our Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists® guide you through a six-week, full-body strength program. For racquet sport players, this program includes building strong forearms and wrists. The added strength can help you move more efficiently and reduce wear and tear on your ligaments. Read more about our sports performance programs.

Symptoms

Signs of Tennis Elbow

With tennis elbow, too much activity and not enough rest can lead to tissue damage, which weakens the tendons. It’s important to seek medical care at the first signs of tennis elbow because symptoms often get worse over time. Even if you’re experiencing mild discomfort, our experts offer an accurate diagnosis so you can start treatment right away.

Watch out for symptoms that include:

  • Pain and soreness on the outside part of the elbow
  • Difficulty gripping objects with your hand
  • Weakness in the hand and wrist

Diagnosis

Tennis Elbow: Tests & Imaging

Members of our sports medicine team perform a detailed exam to assure an accurate diagnosis.

During your exam, we:

  • Listen carefully as you describe the symptoms you’re experiencing. It’s also helpful to know when symptoms began, if you can tell us.
  • Examine your elbow, forearm and wrist. We may gently press against the skin while holding your arm in certain positions to check for signs of inflammation.
  • Order imaging tests when necessary. For example, an X-ray can help rule out other conditions, like arthritis. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan lets us examine tendons and soft tissue in greater detail.

Find out more about orthopedic diagnosis at Aurora.

Treatment

Nonsurgical & Surgical Treatments for Tennis Elbow

Many people with tennis elbow start to feel better after resting the affected arm. Over-the-counter pain medications and a special forearm brace may also help you stay comfortable while you recover.

You may need a ready-to-use or a specially made (custom or semi-custom) brace. Our team can not only help you get the device you need, but make sure it fits correctly, too.

Additional treatments for tennis elbow may include:

  • Physical therapy: Our physical therapists help strengthen muscles in the forearm and near the elbow with special exercises. We also work with you to develop a plan for gradually easing back into your favorite activities. Find out more about orthopedic physical therapy.
  • Injections: We help you get relief by injecting medications directly into the affected tendons to reduce swelling. Our orthopedic experts have a lot of experience treating tennis elbow, which helps us deliver the medication precisely where you need it. Read more about injections for joint pain.
  • Surgery: If the pain lingers for more than six months, you may need surgery. Our orthopedic surgeons use sophisticated tools, like an arthroscope, to examine the complex structures of a joint, like your elbow. This process takes place through very small incisions, which can lead to a faster recovery – so you can get back to the activities you love most. Learn more about minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery.

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