Treatment if the condition gets worse or does not improve
The longer you continue activity that harms the tendon
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:
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
- 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
What to think about
Your treatment choices will
depend in part on whether elbow pain affects your job or daily life.
It also depends on whether you are willing or able to change habits
or activities that are causing your elbow pain.
treatment is usually started if the injury is:
- A result of overuse.
- A sudden
(acute) injury that doesn't have large tears in the tendon or other severe
damage in the elbow.
Most cases of tennis elbow respond to rest, ice, rehab
exercises, pain medicine, and counterforce braces. This injury does take from 6
months to 12 months to heal. Patience helps.
Surgery is considered
as a last resort when all other nonsurgical treatments have failed. You may be
referred for surgery if:
- The injury is from a sudden (acute) injury
that left large tears in the tendon or other severe damage in the
- The injury is from chronic overuse and more than 6 to 12
months of tendon rest and rehab haven't relieved elbow pain. (If the tendon is
very weak, surgery may not improve your situation much.)
continues despite other treatment.
- You have had a corticosteroid
shot and it hasn't helped.
In as many as 9 out of 10 people who have tennis elbow,
symptoms go away and the people can return to their normal activities whether
they have had surgery or not.3