Tennis Elbow – Treatment
Tennis elbow can be effectively treated, although it may take some time to cure it completely. The first step in treatment is resting the elbow, which means avoiding the activity that is causing the problem. During this time, applying an ice pack may help decrease pain and inflammation and taking painkillers or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen, may relieve the pain. You might also consider buying a tennis elbow brace, which is worn over your forearm to reduce stress on the injured area.
Your Doctor or Consultant may refer you for a course of Physiotherapy, for exercises that stretch and strengthen your forearm muscles and ultrasound treatment to the area in which, high frequency sound waves are directed at the tendon. It is thought that this treatment works by improving blood flow to tissues under the skin. Alternatively, if the pain is severe, a Steroid injection may be given to help your injury recover more quickly. The pain usually settles after a steroid injection but in a fairly high proportion of patients the pain will return.
If your symptoms aren’t improving or if the pain from the tennis elbow is interfering with your daily activities, then a surgical tennis elbow release procedure may be considered.
The surgery is usually performed under general anaesthetic as a day case. A tourniquet is inflated around the upper arm to give a blood free zone. An incision is made on the outside of the arm, just below the elbow and the common extensor tendon is raised off the lateral epicondyle and the abnormal and damaged tissue removed. The surface of the bone is cleaned. The tourniquet is released and the skin is closed using fine stitches and a dressing applied.
Following the surgery simple painkillers may be required for a few days. The dressings are removed after two days and the wound is covered with a Mepore dressing, the wound must be kept covered and dry. After two weeks the stitches are removed. You should gradually increase the use and range of movement in this arm but care should be taken not to use it for anything heavy for six weeks.
Like any operation there are small risks. The scar is occasionally tender and there is a possibility of prolonged recovery. In some patients the symptoms can persist or recur.
Once your symptoms have reduced and your forearm has gained strength, you can gradually try returning to all normal activities. If you play tennis, for instance, keep in mind that a sensible gradual return to the game is best, often with the advice of a tennis professional who can help you improve your technique and ensure you’re using the right equipment.