OrthoVirginia Blog

Tennis Elbow

Dr. Zimmer practices in our Burke and Springfield offices.

One of the most common elbow problems is pain on the outside or lateral side of the elbow which is called tennis elbow familiarly or lateral epicondylitis in medical terms. Tennis elbow is an inflammation of the origin of the forearm muscles that extend the wrist, with some inflammatory tissue underneath the muscle attachment at the elbow. This can be caused by repetitive activities, such as sports or yard work, as well as after heavy lifting. In my practice about half the time, patients do not remember doing anything unusual or different in their daily activities.

Symptoms are usually some aching on the outside of the elbow which is worsened with lifting, gripping, and with repetitive activities. Direct pressure on the elbow such as hitting the elbow against a door or wall is exquisitely painful. Sometimes if the symptoms are severe enough, the pain can radiate down to the wrist, but rarely into the fingers. There is usually not any numbness or tingling into the hand or fingers.

The patient can treat this themself initially with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories such as aspirin, Motrin, or Aleve taken on a regular schedule 2 or 3 times per day, depending on the medication. Also getting heat on the outside of the elbow and doing a gentle massage increases blood flow and speeds up the healing. Doing some elbow stretching can also help. A tennis elbow strap can be purchased at the store and this is worn about 2 inches below the elbow when doing repetitive type activities. If this does not help after a couple of weeks, see your orthopaedic surgeon for possibly a cortisone injection or physical therapy. Almost all of these will get better without surgery and it is rare that I have to operate on a tennis elbow, although sometimes they can take a while to completely resolve.

To learn more about Dr. Zimmer, read his bio on our website.