Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a common condition that affects the tendons in the elbow. It is often caused by repetitive motions, such as those involved in playing tennis or other sports, as well as certain occupational activities.
If you're struggling with tennis elbow and seeking an alternative to surgery, Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy may be a viable treatment option. In this article, we'll explore what tennis elbow is, delve into the details of PRP therapy, discuss its benefits compared to other treatments, and answer some frequently asked questions.
What is Tennis Elbow (lateral epicondylitis)?
Tennis elbow is a well-known and often misunderstood condition that affects not just tennis players but anyone engaged in repetitive arm movements.
Tennis elbow, medically known as lateral epicondylitis, is a condition characterized by the inflammation of the tendons on the outside of the elbow. Despite its name, tennis elbow is not exclusive to tennis players but can affect individuals from various walks of life. Chronic tennis elbow often occurs due to overuse or repetitive stress on the forearm muscles and tendons, leading to micro-tears and subsequent inflammation.
Common Causes of Tennis Elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
Repetitive Arm Movements: Engaging in activities that involve repetitive arm movements is a primary cause of tennis elbow. Sports like tennis, golf, and racquetball, which require repetitive wrist extension and rotation, can increase the risk of developing this condition. Additionally, occupations that involve repetitive arm motions, such as painting, plumbing, or carpentry, can also contribute to the development of tennis elbow.
Improper Technique: Using incorrect technique or poor form while engaging in repetitive arm movements can place excessive stress on the tendons and muscles of the forearm, making them more susceptible to injury. It is crucial to receive proper training and ensure proper body mechanics to minimize the risk of developing tennis elbow.
Overuse and Excessive Force: Overuse of the forearm muscles without adequate rest and recovery time can lead to the development of tennis elbow. Engaging in activities that involve forceful gripping, such as using hand tools or heavy machinery, can further exacerbate the condition.
Age and Gender: While tennis elbow can affect individuals of all ages and genders, it is more commonly seen in individuals between the ages of 30 and 50. Men and women are both susceptible to tennis elbow, although it is slightly more prevalent in men.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
Tennis elbow patients complain of the following symptoms:
Pain and Tenderness: The most common symptom of tennis elbow is pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow. The tennis elbow pain may radiate down the forearm, making it uncomfortable to grip objects or perform simple tasks.
Weak Grip Strength: Individuals with tennis elbow may experience weakness in their forearm muscles, leading to a noticeable decrease in grip strength. This can impact everyday activities like shaking hands, opening jars, or holding objects.
Stiffness and Limited Range of Motion: Stiffness and a restricted range of motion in the elbow joint are also common in tennis elbow cases. Fully extending or flexing the arm may be challenging and painful.
Increased Pain during Activities: Pain and discomfort in the elbow typically worsen during activities that involve gripping, lifting, or repetitive arm movements. Simple tasks like turning a doorknob or lifting a coffee mug can become painful experiences.
PRP for Tennis Elbow Benefits
Platelet-rich plasma therapy is making waves as a groundbreaking treatment option. From professional athletes to individuals seeking non-surgical solutions, platelet-rich plasma therapy has been shown to be an effective approach to healing various musculoskeletal and dermatological conditions. Some of the most seen benefits of PRP therapy are:
Natural Healing: PRP therapy can support the body's own healing mechanism, by utilizing your own blood's components and supporting healing processes without the need for invasive procedures.
Faster Recovery: PRP therapy may have a faster recovery than surgical approaches, helping you back to your active lifestyle sooner.
Non-Surgical Approach: PRP therapy is a minimally invasive procedure, which may result in reduced risks, minimal scarring, and possibly shorter recovery periods.
Personalized Treatment: PRP therapy sessions are usually tailored to the individual's unique needs.
PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) for Tennis Elbow Treatment: What to Expect
Although your PRP therapy consultation may vary depending on your procedure and special needs, this is a summary of what you can expect during your Platelet-Rich Plasma for Tennis Elbow procedure:
Initial Consultation: Your healthcare professional will evaluate your symptoms and medical history to determine if Platelet-Rich Plasma therapy is a suitable option for your tennis elbow.
Blood Extraction: A small sample of blood, usually around 30-60 milliliters, is taken from your arm.
Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Preparation: The autologous blood sample is placed in a centrifuge machine, which spins it at high speeds to separate the platelets from the other blood components including red blood cells and white blood cells.
PRP Injection: The concentrated PRP is carefully injected into the affected area under ultrasound guidance, ensuring precise placement.
Recovery and Follow-up: After the autologous blood injection, you may be advised to rest the affected arm, apply ice packs, and avoid strenuous activities for a certain period. Follow-up appointments may be scheduled to monitor your progress.
Average Recovery Time
Recovery times can vary depending on the severity of your tennis elbow and individual healing factors.
PRP vs. Surgery: Which is Better?
Surgery is a more invasive approach that involves making incisions to access and repair the affected tissues or structures. It is typically recommended for cases where there are significant structural issues, such as severe tears, fractures, or joint instability. Some other surgery benefits are:
Addressing Structural Problems: Surgery allows direct access to the affected area, making it suitable for cases that require extensive repair or reconstruction of damaged tissues, bones, or joints.
Immediate Intervention: In certain situations, surgery may provide immediate relief and correction of the underlying issue.
Determining whether PRP therapy or surgery is the better option depends on various factors, including the nature and severity of your condition, your overall health, and your personal preferences. In some cases, PRP therapy may be a viable first-line treatment option, offering a non-surgical and minimally invasive approach that promotes healing and avoids the risks associated with surgery. However, for more complex or severe cases, surgery may be
necessary to address structural problems that cannot be effectively resolved through PRP therapy alone.
However, the final decision should be made in consultation with a qualified healthcare professional who can thoroughly evaluate your condition and provide personalized recommendations based on your specific needs and circumstances. Together, you can weigh the benefits and risks of each approach, considering the potential for healing, recovery time, and long-term outcomes.
Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy vs. Physiotherapy: Which is Better?
When seeking treatment for musculoskeletal conditions or injuries, you may come across both Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy and physiotherapy as potential options. While they share the goal of promoting healing and improving function, there are distinct differences between the two approaches.
Physiotherapy, also known as physical therapy, focuses on optimizing function, reducing pain, and enhancing physical performance through therapeutic exercises, manual techniques, and other modalities. Physiotherapists assess and treat musculoskeletal conditions, designing personalized programs to improve strength, flexibility, mobility, and overall physical well-being.
Physiotherapy has a strong evidence base and is widely recognized as an effective treatment approach for various musculoskeletal conditions, including sprains, strains, tendonitis, and post-surgical rehabilitation. It may improve range of motion, muscle strength, balance, and functional capacity. Some of the advantages are:
Comprehensive Rehabilitation: Physiotherapy focuses on holistic rehabilitation, which may address not only the symptoms but also the underlying causes of the condition, aiming to improve overall physical function and quality of life.
Non-Invasive: Physiotherapy typically involves non-invasive techniques such as strengthening exercises, manual therapy, heat/cold therapy, and electrotherapy, minimizing the risks associated with invasive interventions.
Patient Empowerment: Physiotherapy often involves education and guidance, empowering patients with self-management techniques and strategies to prevent further injury and optimize long-term outcomes.
It is important to know that Physiotherapy often requires regular sessions over an extended period, demanding time and commitment from the patient to achieve optimal results.
PRP vs. Ultrasonic Tenotomy (TENEX): Which is Better?
TENEX, also known as ultrasonic tenotomy or percutaneous tenotomy, is a minimally invasive procedure used to treat various conditions involving tendon damage or chronic tendinopathy, such as tennis elbow, Achilles tendonitis, or rotator cuff injuries.
During the TENEX procedure, the patient is usually under local anesthesia. The surgeon may use an ultrasound guidance to precisely locate the damaged or diseased tendon tissue. A specialized device, typically an ultrasonic probe, is then inserted through a small incision in the skin near the affected area.
The ultrasonic energy emitted by the probe breaks down and removes the damaged tissue while leaving healthy tissue intact. The fragmented tissue is typically suctioned out using the same device or flushed out with a saline solution.
While both PRP therapy and TENEX could be effective treatments depending on your condition, According to Healthline, there is still a lack of evidence showing that TENEX actually has long-term effects.
Q: How Effective is the Treatment of Tennis Elbow with PRP?
A: PRP therapy has shown promising results in the treatment of tennis elbow. Clinical studies have demonstrated significant pain reduction and improved function in many patients. However, individual results may vary, and the effectiveness depends on various factors, including the severity of the condition and the patient's overall health.
Q: How Long Should I Rest After the Treatment with PRP?
A: Resting after PRP therapy is crucial to allow the body to heal. Your healthcare provider will provide specific instructions based on your condition and individual needs. Generally, it is recommended to avoid strenuous activities involving the affected elbow for a few weeks post-treatment.
Q: Is PRP Treatment for Tennis Elbow Painful?
A: Discomfort during PRP therapy is typically minimal. Local anesthesia is often used to numb the area, reducing any potential pain or discomfort during the PRP injection process. Some patients may experience mild soreness or swelling in the days following the treatment.
Q: Is It Possible to Drive After the PRP Injection?
A: If the treatment involves the dominant arm and you experience discomfort or limited mobility, it is advisable to arrange for alternative transportation.
Q: How Many PRP Injections Are Required?
A: The number of PRP injections required depends on the individual's condition and response to treatment. While some individuals may experience significant improvement after a single injection, others may require multiple platelet-rich plasma treatment injections spaced several weeks apart to achieve optimal results. Your healthcare provider will create a personalized treatment plan based on your specific needs.
PRP therapy is a non-surgical, repair treatment option for treating tennis elbow that harnesses the body's natural healing processes. Compared to surgery, PRP therapy may offer faster recovery, minimal invasiveness, and the potential for tissue healing. While it may not be suitable for everyone, PRP therapy can be a valuable alternative to surgery or physiotherapy. If you're experiencing the debilitating effects of tennis elbow, consult with a qualified healthcare professional to explore the best treatment option for you.
Selphyl® makes PRP therapy easy and convenient with its next-generation PRP kits that include all the essential components to prepare and administer Platelet Rich Fibrin Plasma in a faster way. Contact us today with any questions or to order!