When should you go for tennis elbow surgery?
Are you experiencing unbearable pain in your elbow every time you touch it or move it? Well, this could be due a condition called as "tennis elbow" that develops due to tiny tears occurring in the tendon and in the muscle coverings. The condition is more prevalent among tennis players though others can get it too. While the condition can usually be treated by means of proper exercise, medication and/or the use of elbow braces that support and strengthen the elbow, tennis elbow surgery sometimes remains the only choice in stubborn cases of tennis elbow.
In most cases, the body can heal on its own and all you need to do is rest the elbows by eliminating aggravating activities from your routine for some time to enable this natural body healing. However in more severe cases of tennis elbow, the pain persists for several months necessitating fast remedial action. A tennis elbow surgery is then advised to get quick relief from the agonizing pain and discomfort.
Some of the most common treatment options for tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis include:
- Trim abnormal tendons 3-4 cm
- Release tendon from bone
Since tennis elbow surgery is usually a treatment option of the last resort, doctors use other treatment options before advising surgery. Over-the-counter medications and icing the affected area are some of the most basic measures used to combat elbow pain. Due to the inherent risks associated with an invasive surgery, doctors recommend surgery only if the patient has a pain level that disrupts his/her routine life. As such, surgery is not considered until a patient has undergone conservative treatment for a minimum period of 6 months. Cortisone shots are also administered to alleviate the elbow pain. If the pain does not subside despite all these efforts, surgery is then considered.
Types of tennis elbow surgery
If all the criteria for surgery are met, doctors may consider one of the two forms of invasive lateral epicondylitis surgery to treat tennis elbow. The first invasive surgery is carried out to create a 3 – 4 cm incision in the arm. During the surgery, the tendon sheaths are trimmed and the incision is closed thereafter. On the other hand, the second type of invasive surgery is performed to cut open the arm and then release the tendon from the bone by means of a scalpel. Since both types of invasive surgeries are conducted on an outpatient basis, a patient is allowed to go home on the same day after the surgery with the operated arm placed in a sling.
The arm may also be wrapped in a plaster cast depending on the extent of the surgery and doctor’s evaluation. It is important to keep the arm elevated to bring down the swelling. The arm should also be kept dry and clean in order to maintain hygiene. In addition, moisture in the early stages of tennis elbow surgery can weaken the scar tissue of the body and should be avoided at all costs. For best surgical results, it is important to follow your doctor’s advice and consult him/her immediately in case the pain gets worse.
Like any other invasive surgery, tennis elbow surgery also has certain risks associated with it. These include:
- Nerve damage
- May experience difficulty while straightening or extending the arm
- A painful and/or an ugly scar on the skin surface
- Persistent weakness in the arm and/or wrist
In addition, there is always a chance that the treatment may not improve the condition at all or may worsen the elbow pain. It usually takes about three to four weeks to see if the tennis elbow surgery has actually helped in treating the problem. Stitches are generally removed after almost ten to fourteen days after surgery and patients are prohibited from driving for about a week.
For those who are scared of invasive type of surgery can go for ossatripsy, a non-invasive option. Chronic tennis elbow patients have been treated effectively using this method.
Surgery Recovery Period
The term of recovery varies from one patient to another though most patients are able to resume normal life in about three to six weeks. You must however remember that tendons take quite some time to heal though you may not feel pain. Subjecting your elbow to strong forces can delay the healing process and may even result in permanent damage. Any activity that can trigger the problem should therefore be avoided for a period of 12 weeks or more. To get permanent relief from tennis elbow, your doctor may suggest simple exercises that can be easily performed at home or work.