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How are tennis elbow and golfer's elbow treated?

Tennis elbow and golfer's elbow can be treated with a minimally invasive surgery called the Tenex Health technique.

First and foremost, if you have a chronic tendon problem, seek out a qualified doctor that can guide you in the treatment process. Surgery is not the first line of treatment, but it's available if appropriate, conservative treatment—such as physical therapy and bracing—haven't worked.

The Tenex Health surgery technique involves the following steps:

  • The surgeon makes a small cut (incision) to see the diseased tendon.
  • He inserts a device that uses ultrasound energy to see the area and take away the bad tissue that is causing your pain.

Recovery takes around 4-6 weeks. For the most part, you can continue your daily activities during recovery. We ask that you avoid any repetitive activities and do not lift anything greater than or equal to 5 pounds.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider.

Dr. Kristofer J. Jones, MD
Orthopedic Surgeon

Both tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are typically treated with non-operative measures. The most effective way to facilitate a quick recovery of tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow is to stop performing the repetitive activity that is causing excessive load on the affected forearm tendons where they attach to the inner or outer elbow. An anti-inflammatory medication can help relieve pain but this should be used as an adjunct to physical therapy exercises, which have been shown in research studies to provide reliable pain relief. A specific regimen of eccentric strengthening exercises is effective for successful return to desired activities. Lastly, a counterforce brace can be worn during everyday activities to relieve tension on the tendon as people participate in their physical therapy program and notice gradual relief of symptoms.

Brian Yee
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Specialist

Depending on what is causing the elbow pain should determine the type of treatment you should receive. Classically overuse of the wrist extensors causes tennis elbow and the wrist flexors causes golfer’s elbow. Soft-tissue massage can alleviate symptoms along with isolated stretching of the muscles. If that does not work, the use of intramuscular manual therapy (formerly known as trigger point dry needling) to improve myofascial dysfunction within the involved muscles often helps reduce the pain.

In some cases nerves originating from the neck can cause pain in the elbow. The radial nerve courses by the lateral elbow producing tennis elbow symptoms and golfer’s elbow can commonly be portrayed by median nerve symptoms. In this case it is important to reduce the pressure of the nerve as it is typically pinched somewhere along its tract. It is also important to improve the mobility of the nerve so it can elongate and match the functional range of motion of the arm. Physical therapists use a technique called ‘neurodynamics’ to improve the mobility and physiology of the nerve.

The use of braces and straps to take pressure off the elbow can help reduce pain and get you through the day.

Most notably, many times elbow pain is diagnosed as an epicondylitis. The term –itis indicates an inflammatory condition of the tendons. However, there is strong clinical research that suggests tennis / golfer’s elbow is an epicondylalgia. The suffix –algia indicates rather a degeneration of the involved tissues. Therefore, treatments should be centered on improving the degenerative processes. This includes manual therapy, modalities, and ergonomic assessments to reduce the stress on the elbow.

Analysis of your ergonomics or technique in your sport that causes your elbow pain is also vital in improving your symptoms. In my clinic I have the opportunity to work with top coaching professionals in tennis and golf allowing me to coordinate what I find physically with their understanding of the technique. We also use 3D motion capture reality imaging to see the athlete in their sport/swing to assess their efficiency of their motion.

 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.