Treatment for Tennis Elbow, Highly Effective New Procedure

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Dr. Kevin Plancher with Plancher Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine with tips on non-surgical and minimally invasive treatments for common elbow condition.

Dr. Kevin Plancher

The good news is that most tennis elbow gets better on its own with rest, but for those stubborn cases and new procedure called Tenex Health TX™ can provide relief and return you to work in a short period of time.

Here’s a bit of irony: Most cases of so-called tennis elbow don’t affect tennis players, but people whose jobs or activities tear the area of muscle and tendon around the outside of the elbow. The good news is that most tennis elbow gets better on its own with rest, but for those stubborn cases a new procedure called Tenex Health TX™ can provide relief and return you to work in a short period of time, says orthopaedic surgeon Kevin D. Plancher, MD, founder of Plancher Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine.

Affecting between 1% and 3% of the general population, less than 5% of tennis elbow diagnoses are actually related to playing tennis, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. The condition, known medically as lateral epicondylitis, occurs more often in men and most commonly affects those between ages 30 and 50.

“Those whose sports or activities require repetitive arm, elbow and wrist movement – such as golfers, baseball players, bowlers, lawn workers, painters, carpenters and others – are most prone to developing tennis elbow,” Dr. Plancher explains. “The condition is usually diagnosed by the description of pain when shaking hands, squeezing or reaching for objects. Confirmation of the diagnosis is often done by physical exam, ultrasound or MRI.”

Tips on non-surgical tennis elbow treatments
Once diagnosed, tennis elbow treatments aim to reduce pain and inflammation in the sore elbow to allow it to heal and decrease further stress on the elbow joint. 95% of cases respond to conservative measures, Dr. Plancher says. These include:

  • Rest: Avoid any activity that causes pain when the elbow is extended for several weeks.
  • Ice: Apply ice to the affected area several times each day for 20-minute periods. Avoid burning the skin. Don’t put the ice directly on the skin.
  • NSAIDs: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or Advil can lower pain and inflammation.
  • Steroid injections: Your doctor can inject an anti-inflammatory into the affected area. Try to avoid more than one injection and be aware of depigmentation to the skin. Topical steroid creams can also help.
  • Splint: Sometimes doctors will prescribe a splint made by an occupational hand therapist used to stabilize and protect the injured elbow.
  • Equipment check: Those whose tennis elbow stems from playing a racquet sport may want to check their equipment for proper fit. Racquets that are stiffer and/or looser-strung can lower stress on the forearm, or a smaller racquet head may help prevent recurring symptoms.
  • PRP/stem cell injections: A newer non-surgical tennis elbow treatment involves injecting platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, or stem cells into the elbow area. Derived from a patient’s own blood, PRP contains high concentrations of growth factor proteins that can help speed healing. “While still considered developmental, PRP injections and stem cells are a very promising method of tennis elbow treatment,” says Dr. Plancher, also a Clinical Professor in Orthopaedics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

New Tenex procedure for stubborn cases of tennis elbow
About 5% of people with tennis elbow won’t see an improvement of their pain and inflammation with conservative treatments. For those cases surgery becomes an option to repair the injured muscle and tendon area surrounding the elbow, Dr. Plancher says.

“The type of surgical approach used, whether open or laparoscopic, typically depends on the severity of tennis elbow and the patient’s overall health,” Dr. Plancher says. “But most surgeries involve removing diseased muscle and re-attaching healthy muscle to bone and taking out the primary cause of tennis elbow.”

The Tenex procedure evacuates scar tissue, of the ultimate sources of tennis elbow pain. “Performed in an office or operating room under light sedation, a tiny incision is made to insert a toothpick-sized tissue removal system that breaks down scar tissue using ultrasonic energy,” explains Dr. Plancher, who lectures globally on issues related to orthopaedic procedures and sports injury management. “It’s a quick, 20-minute procedure with a small incision, so small at times it doesn’t require stitches. Patients can go back to their regular sports and full activities hopefully in 1 to 2 months.”

Kevin D. Plancher, MD, is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon and the founder of Plancher Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine.

Plancher Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine is a general orthopaedics and sports medicine practice with offices in New York City and Greenwich, CT.

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