Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a painful overuse condition, characterized by soreness on the outside (lateral) part of the elbow. Along with golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis) it is a form of tendinitis and one of several painful conditions that have been successfully treated at NYDNRehab.
Tennis elbow is caused by repetitive stress on the muscles and tendons connected with the lateral epicondyle, a bony prominence located on the outside of the elbow. When the muscles responsible for extension of the wrists and fingers are placed under stress, micro-tears can develop at the lateral epicondyle. These micro-tears result in tennis elbow pain. Tendons are made up of strands of collagen; strains and tears trigger the body’s self-repair mechanisms, causing scar tissue to form at the site of degeneration. However, repetitive injury prevents the tissue from healing properly.
Because the tendons have a tendency to degenerate as we age, tennis elbow is more likely to occur in older people. Moreover, once injured, the body is more likely to experience re-injury. The major feature distinguishing tennis elbow from golfer’s elbow is that patients suffering from tennis elbow experience pain on the outside elbow while those suffering golfer’s elbow experience pain on the inner side of the elbow. A patient may also experience difficulty performing actions that involve twisting or gripping, such as holding a cup of coffee or playing the violin. Other symptoms may include elbow tenderness, stiffness, and weakness. Those whose occupations depend on repetitive stress in this area are especially prone to suffer from tennis elbow. This includes people such as carpenters and dentists.
Typically tennis elbow can be treated with conventional treatment methods like rest and medication. In cases where anti-inflammatory medication doesn’t help to relieve symptoms, cortisone injections may prove helpful. Cortisone injections provide more powerful and longer-lasting pain relief than most standard medications. A physician may also prescribe a brace to protect the tendon by restricting total contraction of the muscles. A physician may also prescribe tennis elbow physical therapy, including specific exercises to strengthen the muscles of the forearm.
At NYDNRehab we have fifteen years of experience treating sports and orthopedic injuries, including tennis elbow and shoulder pain. The success of our method lies in combining conventional medical treatment with the most advanced technological methods. On the one hand, our physicians will guide the patient in developing and implementing a specific form of tennis elbow physical therapy. On the other hand, we may use extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) to relieve pain and regenerate damaged tissue. ESWT works by applying either low-intensity or high-intensity sound waves (depending on the severity of the injury and needs of the patient) to the site of injury. These sound waves initiate the body’s own process of healing, bringing blood circulation, oxygenation, and nutrients and gradually restoring the injured tendons. Though ESWT is a recent development in the field of rehabilitation, it is one of the most effective and proven methods for treating degeneration.
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