Most cases of tennis elbow are treated without surgery. Less than 5 out of 100 cases require surgery.2 You and your doctor might consider surgery if several months of tendon rest and rehabilitation (rehab) haven't stopped the pain or returned the flexibility and strength to your forearm.
Consider surgery if:
- Your elbow is still sore and painful after more than 6 to 12 months of tendon rest and rehab.
- Your doctor has ruled out other possible causes of elbow pain, such as nerve problems, arthritis, muscle injury, or injury to another tendon.
- Your corticosteroid shots have given good short-term pain relief, but the pain has returned.
- You can't do normal daily activities and job tasks because of elbow pain.
During surgery, a doctor will most likely cut (release) the tendon, remove damaged tissue from the tendon, or both. In some cases, tendon tears can be repaired.
After surgery, rehab is needed to restore flexibility and strength in the forearm.
Surgery for tennis elbow involves cutting (releasing) the tendon and removing damaged tissue from the tendon. In some cases, tendon tears are repairable (reattached) if the repair can be done without overtightening the tendon. These procedures can be done both arthroscopically and through a larger incision (open surgery) or with a combination of the two techniques.
What to think about
There are different approaches to surgery for tennis elbow, such as where to enter the elbow and what type of reconstruction or repair on the tendon is done. Surgical technique is determined by the type, location, and severity of the injury and by the doctor's preference and experience.
There is no strong medical research that shows that one type of surgery is better than another or that surgery is better than other treatment.4
The success of surgery depends in large part on the amount of time and effort you put into a rehab program.