Hearing your doctor say "you have tennis elbow" probably conjured up a range of emotions. If you don't plan tennis, your first thought may have been "that can't be." But indeed, tennis elbow is just another name for irritation of the tendons in your forearm muscles. These tendons connect your muscles to the bony point of your elbow. It can happen to anyone who does repetitive motions with their arm — golfers, gardeners, swimmers, and even guitar players. Now that you've been diagnosed, you are probably wondering what treatment options exist. Read on to learn more.
If you have ever had an orthopedic injury before, you're probably familiar with the concept of RICE. RICE is an acronym that stands for "rest, ice, compression, elevation." Each of these components works together to reduce inflammation, thereby speeding healing. RICE is very effective for most mild tendon injuries, including tennis elbow.
Take a closer look at each component:
- REST: Take some time off from any activity that stresses your elbow area. This includes sports and work.
- ICE: Apply an ice pack to the sore area a couple of times per day, for about 20 minutes per session.
- COMPRESSION: Your orthopedic doctor will probably give you a special sleeve that compresses your elbow. You'll wear this for most of the day, and perhaps also at night.
- ELEVATION: Spend some time with your elbow elevated above your heart to encourage inflammatory fluids to work their way back into circulation.
With RICE, most mild cases of tennis elbow clear up within a week or two.
If RICE does not work within a few weeks, or if your orthopedic doctor feels your case is more serious, they will likely recommend cortisone injections. This powerful steroid will be injected directly into the damaged part of your tendon. The injection will hurt, but within a day or two, you'll have relief. Many patients recover within a couple of weeks after just one cortisone shot and some rest, but you can have a second injection if needed.
If your tennis elbow becomes chronic, meaning that it persists or keeps coming back even with RICE and cortisone treatments, then your doctor will likely send you to a physical therapist. This practitioner will work with you to strengthen your forearm and arm muscles in a way that takes the strain off the tendons when you are active. This can help break the cycle of recurring bouts of tennis elbow.
To learn more about tennis elbow and your treatment options, reach out to an orthopedic doctor like those at Orthopaedic Associates Of Rochester.