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How is tennis elbow treated?

Fred C. Redfern, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
The treatment for tennis elbow begins with rest and exercises, says Fred Redfern, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Sunrise Hospital. In this video, he says that patients might also need cortisone shots to the area.
Rick Olderman
Physical Therapy
Treatment for tennis elbow first begins with understanding why it is happening. This begins with assessment of the shoulder blade and arm bone, which, when improperly functioning, set up the forearm to also function poorly. The shoulder blade is the foundation upon which all arm movement rests and so must be evaluated as well as the arm bone. This in conjunction with treating the deep forearm rotator muscles, typically relieves tennis elbow.
Brian Yee
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

In traditional Physical Therapy - typically use ultrasound, electrical stimulation, stretching, and iontophoresis to decrease the irritation of the lateral elbow tendons.The clinical outcomes are fair to poor on this.

We typically assess restrictions in joint mobility around the elbow and wrist that dictate the movement of the lateral elbow, we also use direct manual therapy techniques such as soft tissue and joint mobilizations. We also have the option to improve muscle trigger points in the elbow through use of trigger point dry needling to improve muscle restrictions. Lastly we assess the cervical spine / neck as well as the peripheral nerves of the upper extremity. Many times the neck or a pinched nerve from above the elbow can cause referred pain in the lateral elbow. We also assess ergonomics that are related to the elbow pain.

John W. Uribe, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
Tennis elbow is the common name for pain in the outer elbow tendon. Activity is often restricted to encourage healing and prevent further injury. In some cases, elbow bands may be used to compress the forearm muscle to provide some pain relief, limiting the pull of the tendon on the bone. 

There are a number of nonsurgical options to reduce inflammation, including ultrasound, massage and corticosteroid injections. If there is still no improvement, the doctor may perform either arthroscopic or open surgery to repair damage and relieve pressure.
Tennis elbow is treated with the application of ice two to three times per day, anti-inflammatories, and decreasing the use of that arm. Some individuals benefit from wearing a support band around the upper forearm, which takes pressure off the muscles. If symptoms persist, a steroid injection along with physical therapy may be indicated. Rarely surgery may be warranted and should be carefully discussed with your physician.
Audrey K. Chun, MD
Geriatric Medicine
Tennis elbow often recovers without treatment, but painkillers can relieve the ache, and applying ice packs and/or wearing a forearm brace also can help. In chronic cases, injections to the elbow may be indicated. In refractory and severe cases, surgery can cut the muscle and tendon away from the bone. Although drastic, this option is effective, and rehabilitation exercises can ensure that range of motion and strength are retained afterwards.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.