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Tennis Elbow

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Treatment Overview

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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.

Treatment if the condition gets worse or does not improve

The longer you continue activity that harms the tendon after tennis elbow symptoms begin, the longer rehab will take. This ongoing activity can cause severe tendon damage and may someday require surgery. If your symptoms don't go away, your doctor may suggest:

  • Corticosteroid injections, which can help relieve pain for a short time.1 This treatment is sometimes used when you still have pain after 6 to 8 weeks of rest and rehab. Corticosteroids may be harmful to the tendon. But this is usually only a problem after having many injections in the same year.
  • Ultrasound therapy. Ultrasound may help your tendon heal and stop pain.
  • Surgery, which is seldom used to treat tennis elbow (less than 5 out of 100 cases).2 Surgery may be a treatment option if persistent elbow pain doesn't improve after 6 to 12 months of tendon rest and rehab. Surgery usually involves cutting (releasing) the tendon, removing damaged tissue from the tendon, or both. In some cases, tendon tears can be repaired.
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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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