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Tennis Elbow

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Treatment Overview

Tennis elbow treatment is most often successful. The most important part of treatment is tendon rest. A long rest from aggravating activity allows the small tears in the tendon to heal. Depending on how severe your condition is, you may need to rest your tendon for weeks to months. Surgery is a last resort if other treatment isn't helpful.

Initial home treatment

Treatment for tennis elbow works best when it starts as soon as symptoms appear. If your condition is just starting, rest may be all you need. But in most cases, more treatment is needed to protect and heal the tendon.

You can treat your tennis elbow by:

  • Reducing pain.
    • As soon as you notice pain, use ice or cold packs for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, several times a day. Always put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin. Keep using ice as long as it relieves pain. Or use a warm, moist cloth or take hot baths if they feel good. Do what works for you.
    • You can also take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin (such as Bayer), ibuprofen (such as Advil), or naproxen (such as Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20 because of the risk of Reye syndrome, a serious illness. Or try an NSAID cream that you rub over the sore area. Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) can also help with pain.
  • Stopping or changing activities that may irritate the tendon. Learn new techniques for certain movements, and use different equipment that may reduce the stress on your forearm muscles.

Wrist and elbow splints can be used in the treatment of tennis elbow. Splints are sometimes helpful for other bone, joint, and tendon problems. But splints have not been shown to help with pain or recovery for tennis elbow injuries.

Ongoing treatment

Over the first months of recovery from tennis elbow, continue your initial treatment and begin:

  • Rehabilitation (rehab). This can include exercise and other physical therapy treatments to decrease pain and increase range-of motion.
    • Exercises for flexibility and arm muscle strength include the following:
    Warm-up exercises for tennis elbow slideshow.gif
    Stretching exercises for tennis elbow camera.gif
    Strengthening exercises for tennis elbow slideshow.gif
  • Wearing a special counterforce brace. This strap, worn around your forearm just below the elbow, may spread pressure throughout the arm instead of putting it all on the tendon. With a counterforce brace, you may do some grasping and twisting activities. It won't help, though, if you continue using a poor technique or the wrong equipment that originally caused your tennis elbow. You don't need a doctor's advice before trying a counterforce brace. You can find these braces in most drugstores or sporting goods stores.
  • Working with an expert to see whether you need to change how you do an activity or what equipment you use. A sports trainer can help with sports activities and equipment. An ergonomic specialist, occupational therapist, or physical therapist can help with your workplace, including what tools you use, how your workspace is set up, and how you do your job.
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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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