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Tennis or Golfer’s Elbow Surgery: When Is It Needed?


Chronic elbow pain can be a debilitating condition, affecting your ability to enjoy sports and perform everyday tasks. Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are common culprits, causing discomfort, weakness, and limited mobility in the elbow. 

When conservative treatments like rest, physical therapy, and medication fail to provide relief, surgical intervention becomes a viable option. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the world epicondylitis release can help individuals suffering from tennis or golfer’s elbow.

What is tennis and golfer’s elbow?

Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are both common overuse injuries that affect the tendons and muscles of the forearm, particularly those that attach to the elbow. 

While they have similar symptoms, they affect different parts of the elbow, and the activities that often cause them are different.

Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis

Tennis elbow primarily affects the outer part of the elbow. It is often caused by overuse of the forearm and wrist, resulting in small tears in the tendons that attach to the lateral epicondyle (the bony bump on the outer part of your elbow).

It is typically caused by racquet sports (e.g., tennis) and other activities, such as carpentry and manual work.

Golfer’s elbow or medial epicondylitis

Golfer’s elbow impacts the inner side of the elbow. This condition arises due to repetitive stress on the tendons that attach to the medial epicondyle, leading to pain and discomfort. It is typically caused by activities like golfing and lifting weights

When is surgery necessary for epicondylitis?

Treatment for both tennis and golfer’s elbow often starts with rest, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory medications. 

If these conservative treatments do not provide relief, more advanced treatments, including surgery like epicondylitis release, may be considered. An orthopedic specialist may also recommend surgery if:

  • The pain in the elbow persists and becomes chronic.
  • If the condition has led to a significant loss of function in the affected arm.
  • If the condition impacts the patient’s ability to work or participate in their sport. Individuals who rely on their arms and hands for their occupation may opt for surgery sooner.
  • If imaging studies reveal significant structural damage to the tendons.

The decision to proceed with surgery is typically made after careful consideration and consultation with your doctor. 

How to prepare for an epicondylitis release surgery?

Several important preparations are necessary for a safe and successful epicondylitis release surgery. Here are some key practices you can take note of:

  • Follow your surgeon’s pre-operative instructions regarding fasting, medications, showering guidelines, and more.
  • Arrange for a family member, friend, or caregiver to transport you to and from the surgical facility.
  • Prepare your home for your post-operative recovery. This includes setting up a comfortable recovery space with essentials you’ll need, like pillows, ice packs, and easy-to-reach items.
  • Ensure you have any assistive devices or mobility aids, such as crutches or slings, ready for use after the surgery.

How is it performed?

Epicondylitis release is performed to treat conditions like tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow. It involves the surgical removal of damaged or degenerated tendon tissue and releasing tension in the affected tendons. 

The procedure is typically done on an outpatient basis, and there are variations in techniques, but the following steps provide a general overview of how the procedure is performed:

  • The surgery typically begins with the administration of either general or regional anesthesia.
  • The patient is then positioned comfortably, and the surgical area is prepped and cleaned with an antiseptic solution to reduce the risk of infection.
  • The surgeon makes a small incision over the affected area. The precise location of the incision may vary depending on the specific condition and the surgical technique chosen by the surgeon.
  • Next, the surgeon will carefully identify and remove the damaged or degenerated portions of the tendons and remove them. This release of tension in the tendons can involve various techniques, such as debridement (removal of damaged tissue) or tenotomy (cutting and reattaching the tendon).
  • The surgeon closes the incision with sutures or surgical staples. The incision may be quite small, especially in minimally invasive procedures.

After the surgery, patients are monitored in a recovery area until they are fully awake and have stable vital signs. 

Pain management and wound care instructions are provided, and a physical therapy plan is usually initiated to aid in recovery and rehabilitation.

Frequently asked questions about tennis or golfer’s elbow surgery

How long does an epicondylitis release surgery take?

Epicondylitis release is a relatively short procedure and may last around 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the extent of the damage and the chosen technique.

How long is the recovery period after the procedure?

The recovery timeline can vary, but patients usually regain some function within a few weeks. Full recovery may take several months.

What exercises and physical therapy routines are recommended for rehabilitation?

Physical therapy is often a crucial part of the recovery process. It helps improve strength, range of motion, and overall function of the affected arm. Some examples of specific rehabilitative exercises include the following:

  • Wrist flexion and extension
  • Forearm pronation and supination
  • Grip strengthening
  • Wrist curls
  • Forearm, bicep, and tricep stretches

Will there be visible scarring after the surgery?

There will be a scar at the incision site, but its size and visibility depend on factors such as the surgical technique used and individual healing.

When is it safe to resume sports or other physical activities?

You can gradually return to sports and activities after receiving approval from your surgeon. The timing depends on your specific case and the extent of the repair.

How can I prevent tennis or golfer’s elbow from recurring after surgery?

Preventative measures include following your surgeon’s post-operative guidelines, maintaining proper technique in sports or activities, and avoiding overuse and repetitive stress on the elbow.

Where to find the best outpatient orthopedic clinic?

Raleigh Orthopaedic Surgery Center is dedicated to ensuring the safety, comfort, and well-being of each patient. 

Our state-of-the-art facilities are designed with your care in mind, featuring the latest technology, board-certified Raleigh orthopedic surgeons, experienced staff, and rigorous safety protocols. We’re here to provide you peace of mind, knowing that your health is our top priority.

Your orthopedic journey starts with us. Contact us now to learn more!

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.