Tennis Elbow (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
Along with tendon rest, people often use medicine to treat tennis elbow. Medicine can help with pain and relieve or reduce swelling.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most commonly used medicines for treating tennis elbow. NSAIDs are available with or without a prescription. NSAIDs come in pills and in a cream that you rub over the sore area. Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) can also help with pain.
Your doctor may suggest corticosteroid injections (shots) if you are still in pain after at least 6 to 8 weeks of tendon rest and rehab. Corticosteroids are a class of powerful anti-inflammatory medicine. Even though inflammation isn't usually present in long-term (chronic) tennis elbow, corticosteroid shots may ease elbow pain.
What To Think About
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroid shots don't cure tennis elbow. But they can reduce pain and give you enough relief to start rehab.
Avoid taking NSAIDs or other pain relief medicine to control pain if you are continuing activities that can further damage your tendon. If you don't feel the pain, you won't know that your elbow is getting worse.
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 pain or returned the flexibility and strength to your forearm.
Consider surgery if:
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.
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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