Tennis elbow typically heals on its own. It is vital to allow the affected elbow some time to rest and perform measures that can help hasten the healing process.
Commonly used treatment options for tennis elbow
- Application of ice on the affected elbow to reduce the swelling and pain. It is recommended to apply an ice pack for 20-30 minutes every 3-4 hours for 2-3 days or until the pain has settled.
- Utilize an elbow strap to provide protection to the damaged tendon from further strain.
- A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as aspirin, naproxen or ibuprofen can be given to reduce the pain and swelling. Due to the side effects such as ulcers and bleeding, they should only be used occasionally unless the doctor says otherwise since they can delay the healing process.
- Range of motion exercises can minimize the stiffness and increase flexibility. These exercises are ideally done 3-5 times in a day.
- Physical therapy can help strengthen and promote flexibility of the muscles.
- Pain medications or injections of steroids can briefly alleviate some of the pain and swelling around the joint.
In most cases, these treatments are sufficient. As for severe cases of tennis elbow that do not respond to 2-4 months of conservative treatment, surgery might be an option. If surgery is performed, the damaged area of the tendon is taken out while the remaining tendon is repaired.
The ideal time to resume activity is a case-per-case basis and the severity of the damage to the tendon. Remember that each individual heal at varying rates.
Take note that it is not advisable to rush the recovery. If the individual pushes his/her body before tennis elbow has fully healed, it can cause further damage. An individual can resume his/her normal level of activity if:
- Holding objects or bearing weight on the arm or elbow does not trigger pain.
- The affected elbow feels strong as the other elbow.
- Able to flex and move the elbow without difficulty.
- The elbow is not swollen
More Information / Disclaimer
The information posted on this page on tennis elbow is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage muscle injuries and conditions including tennis elbow by taking a standard first aid course with one of our training providers.