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Corticosteroids for Tennis Elbow

Examples

Injections (shots)

Generic Name
dexamethasone
methylprednisolone

How It Works

Corticosteroids relieve pain and inflammation.

A local anesthetic (lidocaine) may be used first to help with diagnosis. If this shot improves the pain, then a corticosteroid injection is given. Lidocaine is sometimes given with a corticosteroid to reduce the pain of the injection.

Why It Is Used

A corticosteroid injection is sometimes used to treat tennis elbow. Corticosteroids are given to relieve the pain of tennis elbow when other forms of treatment haven't helped.

If you don't find long-term relief after a total of three injections over the course of a year, more injections aren't likely to help and may cause harm.

Some doctors believe that corticosteroids should not be given to children.

Corticosteroid treatment is not used when infection is suspected.

How Well It Works

Studies suggest that corticosteroid injections may give short-term relief but don't have long-lasting benefit when compared to other treatments.1 And a large analysis of many corticosteroid studies suggests that in the long term corticosteroids are worse than other treatments.1 For example, one study found that although corticosteroid injection produced the most relief after 6 weeks, it was linked to more relapse and pain after 6 weeks and after 52 weeks than treatment with watchful waiting or rehabilitation.2

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call911or other emergency services right away if you have:

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives.
  • Pain and swelling around the injection site that lasts more than 2 days.

One common side effect of this medicine is pain and swelling the first day or two after the injection. It may help to apply ice at home for 15 to 20 minutes.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

The standard of practice is that steroid injections should be given only 3 or 4 times a year in a single joint area.

Injection of any substance into a joint or tendon has a very small risk of harm, including damage to a tendon, ligament, or nerve; bleeding into the tissue; or infection. Although these rarely happen, your doctor will likely mention these risks to you before you get an injection into a joint.

Nobody likes needles. But experienced physicians and surgeons can usually do the injection in under 30 seconds. It does hurt, but it's quick.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

Citations

  1. Coombes BK, et al. (2010). Efficacy and safety of corticosteroid injections and other injections for management of tendinopathy: A systematic review of randomised controlled trials. Lancet, 376(9754): 1751–1767.

  2. Bisset L, et al. (2006). Mobilisation with movement and exercise, corticosteroid injection, or wait and see for tennis elbow: Randomised trial. BMJ, 333(7575): 939.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerDavid Bardana, MD, FRCSC - Orthopedic Surgery, Sports Medicine
Last RevisedJanuary 10, 2013

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 10, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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