Updated: Jan 17
Do you have a badly hurting elbow? Does it get to the point where it is even unbearable?
If that’s the case, then your elbows could be affected by lateral epicondylitis, otherwise called tennis elbow.
This is an injury that usually develops due to overuse.
Though this can happen in the gym or during daily activities, it is a common injury amongst athletes involved in sports like tennis and badminton (thus the name, tennis elbow).
What’s Tennis Elbow, Exactly?
Tennis elbow, also called elbow tendonitis, occurs when the tendons connecting your forearm muscles to your outer elbow become inflamed.
A common cause of this problem is the repetition of the same, unnatural movements almost every day.
Fortunately, elbow tendonitis may be treated in a variety of ways.
It's one of the main reasons why most athletes rapidly recover from this ailment and return to their sport.
Surely, some cases are more serious and take more time to heal, but they, too, recover and return to training and competition after receiving sufficient rest and treatment.
So worry not, even if you have elbow tendonitis, there are things you can do to alleviate the inflammation and eventually get back to proper training.
Is Tennis Elbow A Sports Injury?
Non-athletes may also get elbow tendonitis, contrary to common opinion.
Many people with this condition engage in outdoor activities that require them to use their forearm muscles repeatedly and vigorously.
Carpenters, plumbers, and even painters are among the most popular people who experience elbow tendonitis.
When To Get Checked
Unfortunately in most cases, patients seek medical attention too late after developing elbow pain.
However, it is preferable not to wait too long and to speak with your doctor as soon as possible.
This will not only help you get back to your normal activities as soon as possible but also ensure that your tendons will remain strong in the long term, as untreated inflammation can lead to degeneration of the tissues.
Of course, tendonitis isn't the cause of any elbow pain, but you shouldn't rule it out.
Your best bet is to have a physician examine the condition and prescribe appropriate remedies/treatments.
Should You Get A Surgery?
Whether or not you need a tennis elbow surgery, is determined by the severity of the injury.
Some people recover without surgery, while others may need surgery.
However, in most cases, tennis elbow treatment is minimally invasive.
Despite the seriousness of your situation, you will return to your favorite sport sooner or later, because this isn’t really a tough condition.
So before you jump into surgery, make sure to check your other options!
Tennis Elbow Treatment 101
If you have elbow tendonitis for the first time, your doctor will most likely prescribe the following treatments:
Strengthening and stretching of the forearm
Additional physical therapy
Using a tendonitis elbow strap
Taking a break from vigorous physical activity
Unfortunately, some patients do not respond to such conservative treatments. There are, however, other ways to encourage a non-invasive recovery.
To get a better look at your specific situation, your doctor can request a musculoskeletal ultrasound picture.
Some doctors can also order you to get the ultrasound images sooner rather than later, skipping the treatments listed above.
Your doctor will use the imaging to analyze the specific features of your tendon and pinpoint where the degeneration is occurring.
Injections of platelet-rich plasma or corticosteroids can be used to reduce inflammation.
These injections, however, are not as effective as other therapies.
If injection therapy and conservative therapies do not work, surgery may be required.
Getting Back To Training
Treatments for elbow tendonitis have a high success rate and depending on the severity of your injury and which route you went through for treatment, you will have to rest for up to half a year.
Usually, for that duration, the doctor will write you a prescription and set up a physical therapy schedule for the next few months.
It's best if you don't miss these sessions because they'll help you heal faster and return to athletic activities earlier than expected.
The general rule of thumb is to return to sports or some other practice only if your doctor gives you the green light.
Failure to adhere to the prescribed resting period can worsen your injury, so don’t be tempted to get back to training before full recovery.
Once you get back to training, make sure to:
Get back up to previous levels of performance gradually
Focus on more compound movements, rather than isolated ones
Exercise correct form and avoid sudden, sketchy movements that can aggravate your injury.
Elbow tendonitis is a common condition that occurs in many athletes, but can also happen during repetitive, everyday tasks.
Though it can be quite bad, elbow tendonitis treatments have a high success rate, meaning that they won’t ruin your future workouts, given that you allow for an appropriate recovery time frame.
Ultimately, your best advice would be to check in with your doctor to examine the severity of your injury and then decide on which route you should take.
After recovery, make sure to gradually get back to training and exclude any activities and exercises that may have caused the injury in the first place.