Most tennis elbow treatments are very successful and the backbone of most recommended treatments is rest. A long rest from any activity that may aggravate your condition is necessary so that minute tears and stresses in the tendon may completely heal. Rest mostly depends on how severe your condition is but mostly you may need to rest for at least a few weeks to a few months. Usually, a specialist will resort to surgery when all treatments have been unsuccessful.
Initial phase of treatment: home treatment
We asked some of the top osteopaths in London for their best tips that they give to patients and here are some of the points they’ve put together.
Home treatment should start as soon as initial symptoms appear. Initial treatments include complete rest of the arm from any activity. Aside from rest, protecting the tendon should be implemented so that healing could immediately begin. These strategies can help treat tennis elbow at home:
• Use warmth or cold, whichever could reduce pain
A tennis elbow is very painful therefore pain relief is usually the first course of action. Use ice or cold packs for 10 minutes several times a day will help reduce pain. Use a small towel or a thin cloth over the area before you apply an ice pack. Aside from using ice you may also place a warm or moist cloth over the affected area or take a warm bath if this reduces pain.
• Use medications for pain
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen will reduce pain. There are also NSAID creams and ointments that you can use over the area. Other medications such as acetaminophen can also help with pain. Aspirin is not recommended for people younger than 20 years of age because it increases the risk of developing Reye syndrome.
• Learn new ways to perform activities
If your right arm hurts then find ways to perform activities using your left. You may also use better forms of equipment or tools to reduce stress on your arm.
• Use elbow and wrist splints
There are over-the-counter elbow and wrist splints that you can use to immobilise your arm or wrist. Splints are known to be helpful in the treatment of tendon, bone and joint problems however splints are not known to reduce the pain and inflammation from tennis elbow injuries. Consult your doctor before the use of elbow or wrist splints.
Next phase: ongoing treatment
During the first few months of treatment from tennis elbow, initial treatment procedures should be continued along with the following strategies:
• Exercise to rehabilitate the injured elbow
Rehabilitation treatment includes exercises as well as different forms of physical therapy treatments to reduce pain and improve joint range of motion. Exercises to warm-up before an activity, stretching the elbow and strengthening the elbow are important parts of tennis elbow rehabilitation.
• Wearing a counterforce brace
Over the course of your treatment, your doctor may advise you to wear a special counterforce brace. A counterforce brace is worn around the forearm just below the elbow to ease pressure and spread it throughout the arm. A counterforce brace will let you do a little grasping or twisting but it is still important to give your arm a rest and to use correct safe and correct procedures in performing different tasks.
There are different kinds of counterforce braces; find one that will fit your arm size, the most comfortable material and the ideal brace that will match your budget.
• Consult an expert
Whether you are working on a particular activity or you are performing sports, you must consult an expert on alternative techniques to avoid aggravating your condition. Sports trainers can assist you with proper techniques and using equipment properly while occupational or physical therapists can help you with workplace safety, using the ideal tools or equipment and to make your job more bearable as you recover from your injuries.
Severe treatments for tennis elbow
If the injury is so severe, a specialist may recommend using drastic treatments such as corticosteroid injections for pain, ultrasound therapy and surgery. Corticoid steroid injections will only be effective for a short period of time and is usually used to reduce pain after 6 to 8 weeks of rest and using rehabilitation strategies. Meanwhile, surgery is seldom used and it is only done when elbow pain does not improve after 6 months to a year of rest and rehabilitation. In surgery, the damaged part of the tendon is removed and tendon shears and stresses are repaired.