For most people, tennis elbow gets better simply by taking a break from aggravating activities and following a regular stretching routine. Icing the area and taking anti-inflammatory medications may be recommended, especially if the pain started recently. Physical therapy can help by strengthening the affected muscles.
Since tennis elbow pain is caused by repetitive wrist movements, a rigid Velcro wrist brace is sometimes recommended to immobilize the wrist. An elbow wrap is also helpful for some patients.
Various injections can be considered if symptoms persist. Cortisone (an injectable steroid) can reduce inflammation and thus decrease pain. It's usually given with lidocaine, an anesthetic that provides immediate pain relief, and ultrasound imaging may be used to guide placement of the injection. However, the effects of this treatment may not last long. Depending on the individual case, other treatments may be considered, such as trigger point or platelet-rich plasma injections, or a procedure called dry needling.
For the small number of patients who don't get better with nonsurgical treatments, surgery may be a reasonable option. In one procedure, the tendon is cut loose from its attachment to the lateral epicondyle, which eliminates the stress on the tendon but may weaken the muscle. Another surgical technique involves removing the injured area of the tendon and repairing any tears.
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.
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