Tennis Elbow

Lateral epicondylitis, commonly called tennis elbow or climber’s elbow, is a painful condition caused by inflammation and micro-tearing in the tendons that connect the forearm muscles to the outside of the elbow.

Our highly experienced, board-certified plastic and hand surgeons have performed thousands of cosmetic and reconstructive procedures. We invite you to book a consultation to discuss your goals and treatment options.

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Tennis Elbow Treatment Benefits:

  • Relief from sharp pains, dull aching, and burning in the outer elbow

  • Improved grip strength

  • Faster return to sport or occupation

The extensor carpi radialis brevis muscle and tendon help stabilize the wrist when the elbow is straightened. Repetitive overuse of this muscle can cause tiny tears to form on the tendon where the muscle inserts into the lateral epicondyle in the elbow. These micro-tears cause inflammation, swelling, and pain. Repetitive use of the elbow and forearm exacerbates the problem, causing increasing damage as the muscle rubs against the bony nodules of the epicondyle bone.

Anyone who repetitively strains their forearm muscles with the regular extension of the wrist and hand is at risk of developing lateral epicondylitis. Athletes, musicians, carpenters, chefs, mechanics, plumbers, and those engaging in regular manual labor for work may be more likely to develop tennis elbow than the general population.


Most patients with tennis elbow report that their symptoms develop gradually and get worse over time, especially if they continue activities that exacerbate their symptoms. Common symptoms include a burning or aching sensation in the outer part of the elbow that is often worse at night.

Non-Surgical Treatments for Tennis Elbow

  • Rest: Resting the affected arm and avoiding activities that cause pain can help reduce inflammation and promote healing.
  • Ice therapy: Applying ice to the affected area can help reduce pain and swelling.
  • Physical therapy: Stretching and strengthening exercises can help improve the flexibility and strength of the muscles and tendons in the affected arm.
  • Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen, can help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Bracing: Wearing a brace or splint on the affected arm can help provide support and reduce strain on the tendons.
  • Corticosteroid injections: In some cases, a corticosteroid injection may be recommended to reduce inflammation and pain.

Lateral Epicondyle Release Surgery

If non-surgical treatments for tennis elbow do not provide sufficient relief, surgical options may be considered. The most common surgical treatment for tennis elbow is called lateral epicondyle release, also known as an elbow tendinopathy release or debridement.

During this procedure, we make a small incision in the skin over the lateral epicondyle and remove damaged tissue and bone spurs from the area surrounding the extensor carpi radialis brevis tendon. Our goal is to relieve pressure on the affected tendon to reduce inflammation, swelling, and pain.

Lateral epicondyle release is performed on an outpatient basis at our ambulatory Northern Arizona SurgiCenter in Flagstaff, AZ, and can be done using local or general anesthesia. Recovery time varies depending on the extent of the surgery, your overall health, and goals. Most patients have fully recovered and can return to sport within six months of the procedure. Lateral epicondyle release is very effective and considered successful in 80 to 90% of patients.

Medical Review: This procedural information has been medically reviewed by plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Brian A. Cripe, M.D.

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Book Your Tennis Elbow Treatment Consultation

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