How to Understand a Tennis Elbow Diagnosis

Tennis elbow must be an affliction reserved for people who regularly play tennis, right? Not necessarily. It may surprise you that an overwhelming majority of people diagnosed with tennis elbow are not tennis players at all!

The medical name for tennis elbow is lateral epicondylitis, which describes a painful condition of the elbow joint caused by overuse of the tendons due to repetitive motions. It can affect anybody who uses their arm to perform the same action repeatedly. That includes certain sports — like tennis — and occupations like machine operator, painter, plumber, carpenter, or butcher, to name a few.

You can learn more about tennis elbow, especially regarding the recovery process by reaching out to Cawley Physical Therapy. For now, you can read below and get a better idea of how and why you received a tennis elbow diagnosis, as well how to handle your recovery.

A man playing in a tennis tournament.

What Causes Tennis Elbow to be Painful?

Tennis elbow pain is in the area where the tendons in your forearm attach to a bony bump known as the lateral epicondyle, which is located on the outside of your elbow. (The tendon typically involved in tennis elbow is called the Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis — ECRB for short.) The pain can also spread — or radiate — into your forearm and wrist. In addition to pain, there might be a swelling, bruising, weakness, or a numb feeling in your hand.

Symptoms can sometimes be so severe that even simple actions like turning a doorknob or holding your coffee cup can be painful. The tendons become inflamed because they are used so often, thereby giving them an insufficient amount of time to recover.

A visual representation of tennis elbow.

How Was Your Tennis Elbow Diagnosis Found?

The first step is a physical examination by your doctor, who may apply pressure to the affected area or ask you to move your elbow, wrist, and fingers in various ways. Sometimes, this physical exam combined with your medical history and some key questions (e.g., “What kind of work do you do?” or “Do you play a sport?”) might be enough for your doctor to diagnose tennis elbow. The doctor may also order tests like x-rays to confirm their diagnosis or if she suspects that there might be something else that could be causing your pain.

Tennis Elbow Treatment Options

Here’s the good news: Tennis elbow will often resolve itself with time, rest, self-care like ice therapy, anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen, and physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the muscles in your forearm. A physical therapist can also teach you techniques to avoid re-injuring the tendons in your arm despite your sport or profession.

Even when surgery is necessary to repair a torn tendon, for example, a team approach involving your surgeon and a doctor of physical therapy is still the preferred and most successful approach to healing your tennis elbow.

A list of exercise that can relieve pain from tennis elbow.

The Value of Physical Therapy for Tennis Elbow

It should be no surprise that physical therapy for tennis elbow will be an important part of your recovery. Nearly any injury you can imagine can get better faster with the help and advice of a trained physical therapist. Physical therapists help with pain and mobility and assist patients in getting back to the business of life! Research shows that individuals who receive regular physical therapy treatment experience more significant improvement in function and decreased pain intensity.

Physical therapy is also helpful for people who have chronic pain issues — such as those with arthritis. It’s a low-cost treatment method for chronic pain and may even help patients reduce their use of pain medications. A physical therapist will develop a program targeted to your specific needs to restore movement, minimize pain, and inspire you on your road to healing.

A woman receiving professional help for her tennis elbow pain.

Discover Tennis Elbow Treatment Options at Cawley Physical Therapy

You can find the best team of physical therapists in Northeast Pennsylvania at Cawley Physical Therapy. We’re a fun-loving group with five state-of-the-art facilities, and we’re always ready to help get you back on your feet and enjoy a more comfortable, pain-free life! Give us a call today!