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Elbow tendonitis treatment can range from conservative home treatment to more advanced medical treatment, based on individual need. The key is understanding which treatment path is best for you. In this article, we’ll cover treatment options for elbow tendonitis to get you back to all the activities you enjoy.
If you have elbow pain from tendinitis the first line of treatment is to modify your activities and incorporate some lifestyle changes. Below we cover the simple home treatments you can implement to find pain relief.
The first step in treating medial and lateral epicondylitis, the medical terms for elbow tendonitis, is to rest. The elbow tendon and muscles need time to heal, which is exactly what rest gives them. Avoid lifting heavy objects and playing sports. For people who just can’t stop, resting may be the most difficult treatment option, but it’s one of the most important treatments.
Once the initial inflammation decreases, it’s time to gently stretch and exercise your forearm muscle. Stretching will help you maintain your range of motion and mobility, whereas strengthening exercises will prevent re-injury. Avoid any movements that cause pain and talk to your doctor or physical therapist if you have any questions about specific movements.
A physical therapist is professionally trained to evaluate your injuries and determine a plan of care specific to your situation. Once your physical therapist has evaluated you, you will be educated on the injury, given instructions on what to do and not to do, and information on a follow-up visit.
Massage is an excellent home remedy that not only improves your overall sense of well-being but can make a difference in your elbow tendonitis recovery. Massaging your injury can release scar tissue and adhesions and improve blood flow to the area.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy works well when used in combination with other treatments like massage. A TENS unit is a small, portable device that sends an electrical impulse through wires to adhesive patches. The electrical signal interrupts the pain pathway, providing temporary pain relief.
If you’ve played racquet sports or golf then you’ve likely seen someone wear an elbow brace or strap. These work well for occasional use by applying pressure to the tendon, which can help relieve pain and support the tendon. Braces and straps should be used with other treatment options like rest, exercise, and stretching.
Cold works as an anti-inflammatory. By numbing the skin and reducing blood flow it provides pain relief and minimizes swelling. Use an ice pack in 15 to 20-minute intervals on your elbow joint and the surrounding tissue. Icing your injury before and after activity can help minimize subsequent pain. Just be sure never to sleep with an ice pack to prevent cold injury to your skin.
Click here to learn how to properly apply ice and heat to an injury.
Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are inexpensive and easy to find at any pharmacy. The medication treats pain and inflammation and is a great home treatment option for elbow tendonitis. Popular NSAIDs are ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) and naproxen (Aleve). Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before you start a new medication.
When home treatments and lifestyle changes aren’t enough to manage the symptoms of tennis elbow then it’s time to look into medical treatment.
Cortisone is a steroid medication that can be injected into the injury to provide a powerful anti-inflammatory effect. These injections are given in the doctor’s office and have minimal downtime after. The effects can be temporary and the injections may need to be repeated for a full recovery.
Ultrasonic tenotomy (TENEX) is a minimally invasive surgical procedure. The patient is given a local anesthetic and the surgeon uses ultrasound to find the injured tendon. A small incision is made near the tendon and the ultrasonic device is placed near the tendon to break down and remove the injured part of the tendon.
Arthroscopic elbow surgery is a same-day surgical procedure. It uses small incisions to allow room for the surgical instruments and the surgeon to perform the repair or remove the damaged elbow tendon tissue. Downtime after an arthroscopic surgery tends to be shorter than an open procedure and has less recovery time.
Preventing elbow tendonitis is the best way to avoid the pain and frustration of injury. The best prevention techniques involve strengthening muscles and minimizing overuse. Take a look at our checklist of the ways to prevent elbow tendonitis:
Elbow tendonitis treatment starts with lifestyle changes and home treatment. Oftentimes, these remedies are enough to reduce pain and get your back to the activities you enjoy. If these treatments are not enough, then it’s time to talk to your doctor or physical therapist about medical treatment. Thankfully, there are multiple treatment options available to help you get back to what you enjoy.
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