The sooner you begin treatment, the sooner you'll be able to return to your usual activities.
- Rest. Put your golf game or other repetitive activities on hold until the pain is gone. If you return to activity too soon, you may make it worse.
- Ice the affected area. Apply ice packs to your elbow for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, three to four times a day for several days. To protect your skin, wrap the ice packs in a thin towel. It may also help to massage the inner elbow with ice for five minutes at a time, two to three times a day.
- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever. Try ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen (Aleve, others) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others).
- Stretch and strengthen the affected area. Your doctor may suggest specific stretching and strengthening exercises. Physical or occupational therapy can be helpful too.
- Reduce the load on your elbow. Wrap your elbow with an elastic bandage or use a forearm strap. And remember to maintain a rigid wrist position during all lifting activities.
- Consider other medications. If over-the-counter pain relievers aren't effective, your doctor may recommend a cortisone injection to reduce pain and swelling. These injections usually provide only short-term pain relief.
- Gradually return to your usual activities. When you're no longer in pain, practice the arm motions of your sport or activity. Review your golf or tennis swing with an instructor and make adjustments if needed.
- Ask your doctor when surgery is appropriate. Surgery is seldom necessary. But if your signs and symptoms don't respond to conservative treatment in six to 12 months, surgery may be an option.
Most people will get better with rest, ice and pain relievers. Depending on the severity of your condition, the pain may linger for several months — even if you take it easy and precisely follow instructions on exercising your arm. Sometimes the pain returns or becomes chronic.
Oct. 09, 2012
- Jayanthi N. Epicondylitis (tennis and golf elbow). http://www.uptodate.com/ index. Accessed Aug. 23, 2012.
- Longo DL, et al, eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=4. Accessed Aug. 23, 2012.
- Van Hofwegen C, et al. Epicondylitis in the athlete's elbow. Clinics in Sports Medicine. 2010;29:577.
- McPhee SJ, et al. Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2012. 51st ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=1. Accessed Aug. 23, 2012.
- Shiri R, et al. Lateral and medial epicondylitis: Role of occupational factors. Best Practice & Research Clinical Rheumatology. 2011;25:43.
- Walker-Bone K, et al. Occupation and epicondylitis: A population-based study. Rheumatology. 2012;51:305
- Walz DM, et al. Epicondylitis: Pathogenesis, imaging, and treatment. RadioGraphics. 2010;30:167.
- Laskowski ER (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Aug. 28, 2012.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.