"Tennis elbow"

Posted June, 2008

"Tennis elbow" is the common term for a condition where the patient feels pain in one or both elbows, usually right on the top "knobby" area. Almost always this is caused by over-using the joint when the supporting muscles aren't in the condition they should be. (For example, playing tennis in the spring after not practicing all winter.)

The pain is caused by inflammation of the epicondyle, the soft tissue at the end of the upper forearm musculature. Doctors call this disease "epicondylitis." If you've got it in both elbows, they add "bilateral," which just means "both sides."

When a patient has this type of pain, the epicondyle ligament often has tiny splits or tears in it. These cause burning or other disagreeable sensations. The older treatment for this condition was to inject anti-inflammatory agents into the tissue. But it appears this may cause more unintended complications than it solves. It may even further weaken the epicondyle ligament over time.

It's quite common for epicondylitis sufferers to have other problems (for example deeper elbow joint pain, and even some loss of functionality such as dropping things coffee cups, pencils). There's also often a sensitivity to pressure on the attachment node of the epicondyle, which may be extremely painful to any errant contact. If you've ever hit your "funny bone" you know how much that can hurt.

Luckily, the condition responds to several well-established approaches. We've had great success in reducing and even totally eliminating the pain of "tennis elbow." Our customary treatments include electrical stimulation of the pain-causing tissue. This process, called Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) may re-set the pain-sensing nerves back to a state of lower activity.

We also employ a very effective method of healing such soft tissue injuries called proliferant treatment.

In many cases, after a series of Prolotherapy treatments (the exact number of which Dr. Robb will adjust on a patient-by-patient basis), the afflicted joint returns to full strength and significantly less—if not zero—pain. There's an added benefit in that the new connective tissue may be more resistant to the stresses that caused the injury than the original ligament was. (To what degree this is the case varies between patients who've used the treatment, as it always does with such things.)

We have powerful tools at our disposal to help with this annoying, yet very common pain issue, Contact our office to discuss setting up an appointment to remedy your epicondylitis pain.