How do I Choose the Best Lateral Epicondylitis Treatment?

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  • Written By: Jacquelyn Gilchrist
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 22 March 2019
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The best lateral epicondylitis treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms. This condition, more commonly called tennis elbow, may range from mild to severe. Rest and mild pain relievers, along with taking steps to prevent future problems, is sufficient for many cases. Moderate to severe cases of lateral epicondylitis may require physical therapy or possibly surgery.

Lateral epicondylitis is a repetitive strain injury that occurs when the wrist and arm are damaged from overuse. The tendons that connect the forearm muscles to the elbow become inflamed and small tears can develop. Pain and weakness are the most common symptoms. If you have never experienced tennis elbow before, or if your symptoms are severe, see your doctor before beginning any lateral epicondylitis treatment.

A doctor will likely recommend resting the affected arm and avoiding the physical activity that caused the injury. Mild symptoms will not require prescription-strength medications. Instead, lateral epicondylitis treatment will consist of over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Ice should be applied to the outside of the affected elbow two to three times daily, for about 10 minutes each session.


Swelling may be reduced by keeping the arm elevated above the head. Patients should also wrap the elbow and arm with a compression wrap to lessen swelling; however, they must take care not to cut off the circulation with an overly snug bandage. You may also benefit from wearing a forearm splint during the night to improve symptoms the following day.

Lateral epicondylitis treatment for moderate to severe symptoms will likely include physical therapy. The physical therapist can show you how to strengthen and stretch the muscles, as well as how to move your wrist and arm to avoid a relapse of this condition. These exercises should be performed regularly, even after the pain dissipates, in order to prevent future symptoms. If you experience severe pain and over-the-counter pain relievers are insufficient, your doctor may administer cortisone injections. These injections can ease the pain and help reduce the swelling; however, having too many cortisone injections can cause a rupturing of the tendon.

If symptoms fail to improve after six months to a year of rest and physical therapy, you may wish to consider surgery as a possible lateral epicondylitis treatment. Usually, an open surgery is needed; however, in some cases arthroscopic surgery may be used, which requires smaller incisions. During the surgery, the doctor will remove any diseased muscle tissue. Recovery for this lateral epicondylitis treatment will involve immobilization of the arm for about one week, followed by greatly reduced physical activity for four to six months. You will also work with a physical therapist after you have recovered for about two months.



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