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Tennis player wearing an elbow bandage


Do you have pain over the outside of your elbow?

Tennis elbow, also called tendonitis or lateral epicondylitis, is inflammation or overuse of extensor tendons which can cause significant pain along the outside of the elbow. This pain may be quick to occur or may develop overtime and may happen with or without an injury.


The typical age for people to get tennis elbow is between the ages of 30 to 50 years but this problem may occur at any age. Also, you don’t have to play tennis to get this problem. Any activities that involve repetitive lifting with the palm down, gripping and squeezing activities are at risk. Several of our patients complain of significant pain with lifting a gallon of milk out of the refrigerator.


Why is it so hard to get over Tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow can turn into a chronic (long term) problem but may also come and go with or without activity. There are several treatment options available that may help your symptoms. The good news is according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, approximately 80% to 90% of patients have success with nonsurgical treatments. There are things that can be done short of surgery and many will respond.


What are some things I can do on my own?

  • Rest, try to avoid palm down lifting, gripping and squeezing. Try to do things with the palm facing up.
  • Oral NSAIDS are anti-inflammatories and taken as directed, with food may calm the inflamed tissues. Be sure not to exceed 2 weeks on a consistent oral NSAID without consulting a physician.
  • Stretching is very important. Without stretching the likelihood for re-injury is magnified, as with any other body part. Click here for a typical stretching program.
  • Some people respond to counter-force bracing (also called a tennis elbow strap). These may be purchased over the counter at some pharmacies as well as a sporting goods store. It is important to be sure that you are wearing this brace correctly. Typically you will want to place the brace two finger breaths below (distal) the sore spot.
  • If pain continues, seeing a upper extremity specialist may be warranted and even a cortisone injection may be considered.


Why don’t I just have surgery so I don’t have to deal with all these non-surgical options?

To avoid the obvious being, surgery just isn’t any fun and there are risks associated, it is also important to note surgery isn’t always a home run when it comes to tennis elbow. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons report tennis elbow surgery is considered successful in 80-90% of patients but as with any surgery, this option should be discussed with your surgeon.


Written by: Stephanie Jones, AT

Kansas City Bone & Joint Clinic