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 might 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 sodium (Aleve, others) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others).
- Use a brace. Your doctor might recommend that you wear a counter force brace on your affected arm, which might reduce tendon and muscle strain.
- Stretch and strengthen the affected area. Your doctor may suggest stretching and strengthening exercises. Physical or occupational therapy can be helpful, too. A type of strengthening (eccentric) that lengthens the tendon of the wrist extensor muscles has been shown to be particularly effective in treating chronic tendon irritation.
- Reduce the load on your elbow tendons. Wrap your elbow with an elastic bandage or use a splint.
- Gradually return to your usual activities. When your pain is gone, 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. A new procedure involves minimally invasive, ultrasound-guided removal of scar tissue in the region of the tendon pain. More study is needed.
Other treatments used include corticosteroid injections, which have not been shown to be an effective long-term treatment. (1p7) A newer treatment being tried is platelet-rich plasma. This involves drawing a small amount of your blood, spinning it down and injecting it into the tender area. More studies are needed.
Most people will get better with rest, ice and pain relievers. Depending on the severity of your condition, the pain may linger for months to years — even if you take it easy and follow instructions on exercising your arm. Sometimes the pain returns or becomes chronic.
Aug. 25, 2015
- Jayanthi N. Epicondylitis (tennis and golf elbow). http://www.uptodate.com/ home. Accessed Aug. 7, 2015.
- Golf injuries to the hand, wrist or elbow. American Society for Surgery of the Hand. http://www.assh.org/handcare/hand-arm-injuries/Golf-injury. Accessed Aug. 7, 2015.
- Golf injury prevention. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00137. Accessed Aug. 8, 2015.
- Amin NH, et al. Medical epicondylitis: Evaluation and management. Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. 2015;23:348.
- Dimitrios S. Exercise for tendinopathy. World Journal of Methodology. 2015;5:51.