Open release of tennis or golfer’s elbow

Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) and golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis), commonly occurs as a result of overusing the muscles and tendons in your elbow, wrist and forearm. These conditions can make it painful and difficult to perform everyday tasks.

What is tennis or golfer’s elbow?

You may notice pain when lifting or bending your arm, gripping small objects, such as a pen, or when twisting your forearm, such as turning a door handle or opening a jar.

Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are common conditions that can affect anyone, but it’s most common in people aged between 30 and 50 years of age. It is estimated that as many as one in three people have tennis elbow at any given time.

I have a question about treatment of tennis or golf elbow

What causes tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow?

The elbow joint is surrounded by muscles that move your elbow, wrist and fingers. Tendons connect some of these muscles to the bony prominences in your elbow. When your muscles and tendons are overloaded, tiny tears can form and cause the tendons to thicken. Over time, this can become painful and restrict movement.

As the name suggests, it can be caused by repetitive exercises, such as playing tennis or golf. However, it's often caused by other activities that place repeated stress on the elbow joint, such as computer use, decorating, playing a musical instrument, weight training or by forceful, repetitive movements at work. It’s especially common if you work in carpentry, construction or plumbing. Pain on the outer side of the elbow is often known as tennis elbow and pain on the inner side of the elbow is referred to as golfer's elbow.

What is the treatment for tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow?

Tennis elbow is a self-limiting condition, which means it will eventually get better without treatment - nine out of ten cases will make a full recovery within a year. However, there are treatments that can be used to improve your symptoms and speed up your recovery.

It's important that you limit any activity that aggravates your symptoms. Simple pain management, such as holding a cold compress against your elbow for a few minutes several times a day, or taking painkillers can help ease the pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can also be used to help reduce inflammation. Physiotherapy may be recommended to help relieve your pain and improve the function of your arm.

Surgery may be used as a last resort to remove the damaged part of the tendon.

What happens during a release of tennis or golfer’s elbow?

Tennis elbow release can be performed under general or local anaesthetic and usually takes 15-30 minutes.

During the operation, your Consultant will make a small incision along your arm near your elbow. They'll inspect the point where your tendon attaches to the bone. Each operation is individual to the case, so your operation may include:

  • Cutting (releasing) the tendon
  • Repairing or reattaching any tears in the tendon
  • Removing scar tissue or bone spurs (lumps)

The membrane covering the muscle is repaired and the wound is closed using stitches or staples. Your Consultant will also remove any scar tissue found around the elbow muscles.

Your wound will be covered by a dressing and your arm placed in a sling. Our specialist team will talk to you about pain relief medication and how long to wait before you can return to work after tennis elbow release.

Going home after your tennis or golfer’s elbow operation

You’ll need to arrange for someone to drive you home following your surgery, and you shouldn’t drive for at least one week.

Continue to take any pain relief medication for as long as you need. Keep your dressing and wound clean and dry for three to five days. In 10-14 days, you’ll need to return to have your stitches or staples removed. Once your wound is dry and completely healed, you can start bathing or showering your arm again.

Physiotherapy is a very important part of your recovery, so we'll arrange for you to see one of our experienced team. Depending on the extent of your surgery it may take between four and six months before you can start doing any sports.

How much does release of tennis or golfer’s elbow cost?

To request a quotation, complete our online form or contact our Private Patient Team on 01580 363158.

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