Tennis Elbow (cont.)

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What are tennis elbow symptoms and signs?

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Tennis elbow causes elbow pain. Tenderness on the bony prominence on the outer aspect of the elbow (lateral epicondyle) is the most common sign of tennis elbow. Pain may occur during handshakes, lifting a briefcase or bag of groceries, or similar activities that stress the tendons in the forearm. The pain may begin suddenly or gradually and may spread down the forearm. There may be weakness in the forearm. Typically, the range of motion of the elbow joint is not impaired by tennis elbow. Numbness and tingling suggest a nerve problem that can mimic tennis elbow and should be evaluated by a health-care professional.

How is tennis elbow diagnosed?

Tennis elbow is a clinical diagnosis. This means a health care professional can make the diagnosis based on typical symptoms and by examining the elbow. The health-care professional may palpate the bony prominence on the outside of the elbow (lateral epicondyle) and the muscles in the forearm for tenderness. Other physical exam tests for tennis elbow are asking the patient to extend their wrist against resistance while the elbow is straight. In people with tennis elbow, this maneuver often reproduces pain at the outer elbow. X-rays do not show abnormalities with tennis elbow but may be helpful to exclude other problems such as bone fractures from trauma.

What is the treatment for tennis elbow?

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The most important part of treatment is resting the elbow by avoiding repetitive movements that aggravate the tendon strain. Certain elbow braces are commonly used during activities. A tennis elbow strap is a band that wraps around the forearm just below the elbow and is used for the healing stages during activities and as a prevention technique after healing. A wrist brace that prevents wrist extension can be helpful in resting the elbow, as the tendons that extend the wrist are those injured in tennis elbow.

Prescription or over-the-counter NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are commonly prescribed. These should be taken with food to minimize stomach irritation. Physical therapy is a standard part of treatment for tennis elbow. Improper tennis-stroke mechanics often contribute to injury in tennis players, and correcting the improper technique is critical to being able to return to the sport. Local steroid injections may be used for pain control, but they do not heal the injury, and symptoms generally recur if other interventions are not used. Surgery is not usually necessary but can be performed in severe situations if other treatments, including physical therapy, are ineffective.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/24/2013

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