There is a great likelihood that most people diagnosed with tennis elbow have never played tennis in their life. Most of the time, patients with tennis elbow are carpenters, rock climbers, office workers, landscapers, and physical laborers. Many people with this painful condition have never picked up a racket.
Tennis elbow, termed lateral epicondylitis, is a term for moderate to severe tendonitis and inflammation represented as soreness and pain on the outside (lateral) part of the elbow (epicondyle). It is usually caused by a partial tear or an overuse-injury in the tendon fibers which connect muscle to the bone.
Symptoms can include elbow pain and tenderness that radiate down the outside of the elbow and forearm, and to the back of the hand. The pain can worsen with further use, and can be so severe that it can make it hard to use your arm below the elbow and hand.
Initial treatment for tennis elbow pain can include rest, heat/ice, anti-inflammatory medications, elbow sleeves, and kinesiotaping. And studies have shown that the addition of physical therapy and exercise is more effective than taping alone. However, when the elbow pain becomes more persistent, chronic or recurrent, then these simple treatments are less likely to remain effective.
In the past, the limited options for treatment of chronic tennis elbow would be either corticosteroid injections, or surgical removal of the damaged tissues. Corticosteroids are strong anti-inflammatory medications that are very effective in addressing the acute pain associated with initial injury, and allow for physical therapy and rehabilitation subsequently. But steroid injections for chronic tennis elbow are not effective for long term healing, and may lead to further degradation of the tendons over repetitive injections. In regards to surgery, many studies have shown surgery for chronic tennis elbow has not been much more effective than placebo surgery.
Through research, regenerative medicine has been established as a very effective treatment when traditional conservative treatments are unresponsive. Studies have shown that while corticosteroid injections are better for relieve acute pain, Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) injections for chronic tennis elbow are more effective long term to decrease pain and disability. This is because tendon injuries heal very slowly due to their little blood supply, which limits the platelets in the blood to attract healing growth factors to the tendon. The idea of using platelet-rich plasma (PRP) obtained from your own blood to inject the injured tendon is to promote and accelerate the healing process. Thus, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection may be the best current option to treat chronic, severe or recurring tennis elbow that is unresponsive to traditional conservative treatments, or where the patient is trying to avoid surgery.
When creating your treatment plan, our physicians at Virginia Spine Institute will take into account your medical history, treatment preferences, and past treatment history. By evaluating and using this information, it allows us to create a beneficial treatment plan individualized to your needs. With our multidisciplinary practice all under one roof, it allows us the ability to offer more than just one type of treatment alone, which provides greater effective long term results.