Tennis Elbow….but I have never played tennis.

“Tennis Elbow”……but I have never played tennis.

This past week kicked off the 1st round of the French Open.  We were able to witness some great play from the world’s top tennis pros.  Top seeded Serena Williams, who had to withdraw from play in Rome due to an elbow injury, is working through the pain as she looks to regain the title she lost last year to Maria Sharapova.  Her injury opens the door to many of the fierce competitors looking to knock off the top seed in hopes of winning a Grand Slam Title.

tennis elbow

So what exactly is tennis elbow?  Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis usually presents with pain and tenderness over the lateral (outside) aspect of the elbow.  It is often the result of repetitive activities causing inflammation at the origin site of the forearm muscles.  As one can imagine, this condition is not unique to tennis players as the name implies, but can affect anyone repeating the same strenuous motions of the extensor muscles of the forearm.  So, it is very common to see patients with “tennis elbow” who have never played tennis, but instead use the extensor muscles to swing a hammer, use a computer mouse or lift weights at their local fitness center.

The treatment of lateral epicondylitis often includes a period of rest, topical NSAIDs, physical therapy, bracing, injections and very rarely surgery for recalcitrant cases.  Most cases respond best to physical therapy involving eccentric exercises and stretching to increase strength and reduce re-irritation of the tendon.  The use of topical NSAIDs and icing help decrease the inflammation at the insertion site of the tendon to the bone.  Braces that offload the forces across the insertion site of the forearm muscles often allow patients to continue with normal activities while reducing the strain on the elbow.

The good news is tennis elbow usually responds well to treatment.  The bad news is it often comes back.  Many patients experience a relapse of symptoms related  to lateral epicondylitis, but few feel that the symptoms are severe enough to be considered disabling.   Let’s hope that Serena Williams can fight through her elbow injury and provide us with the highest level of competition worthy of a Grand Slam Title.  Good luck to all the competitors!


Dr Andrew Scott Martin

5546 S Fort Apache Rd. Las Vegas, NV 89148