Get a grip on tennis elbow

Now that summer is in full swing, folks are taking advantage of the beautiful Birmingham weather by spending more time outside. Increased outdoor activity can often lead to minor injuries. One of the more frequent summertime injuries is Tennis Elbow, or lateral epicondylitis. This condition is generally more common in women than in men, so we recently sat down with Brookwood Baptist orthopedic surgeon Jeff Wade, MD, to chat more about Tennis Elbow and find out ways to identify it.

What causes Tennis Elbow?

The most common cause of Tennis Elbow is the overuse of the forearm muscles that help stabilize the wrist when the elbow is straight. These muscles can be quickly weakened by repetitive use. This can develop small tears in the tendon where the muscle connects to the bone. Certain sports like tennis and racquetball are very demanding on this exact muscle, which is why the injury can be very common for people who play racquet sports. However, most patients I see develop Tennis Elbow from a number of repetitive, physical activities such as mechanical work, painting, computer usage, fishing or gardening.

What are common symptoms?

Symptoms usually include pain between the outside of the elbow and the forearm that gets worse when grabbing an object, tenderness to touch and pain from wrist extension. If it hurts to extend your wrist backward, like revving a motorcycle, that’s a pretty telling sign you might have Tennis Elbow.

How is Tennis Elbow typically treated?

Since there are a variety of treatment options available, I recommend a visit to your primary care doctor to diagnose the condition and create a personalized care plan. Ice and rest are generally the first line of treatment. Anti-inflammatories and injections are commonly used to treat more severe cases, and surgery can be performed in cases that do not improve from other treatments. If you think you may have Tennis Elbow, there is no need to worry or panic. Remember that it is very common, especially in women, so make an appointment with your doctor to determine the most effective treatment for you.

Jeff Wade, MD, lives in Vestavia with his wife and two children. He currently practices full time in Homewood at Alabama Orthopedics and performs surgery at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center. For more information about Jeff Wade, MD, visit http://www.alabamaorthocenter.com/.

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