How to Treat Tennis Elbow

Georgia Hand, Shoulder, and Elbow

Tennis elbow, a common condition marked by pain and inflammation around the elbow joint, can significantly impact daily activities and athletic performance. This article explores the benefits of heat and cold therapy for managing tennis elbow, detailing how these treatments work and when to use them for optimal results. 

If you’re in the Marietta or Atlanta, Georgia area and need professional guidance, consider reaching out to the experts at Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow for personalized care and treatment.

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What is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow (also known as lateral epicondylitis) is a condition that causes pain around the outside of the elbow joint. It often occurs due to overuse of the forearm muscles and tendons, which are essential for gripping, lifting, and twisting movements. This overuse can lead to small tears in the elbow tendons, resulting in arm pain and inflammation.

People who play tennis or engage in other activities that require repetitive arm movements—like painting or using a screwdriver—are at higher risk of developing tennis elbow. The condition is called “tennis elbow” because it is common among tennis players who frequently use a tennis racket, but it can affect anyone who overuses their forearm muscles.

Symptoms of tennis elbow include pain and tenderness on the outer part of the elbow joint, weakness in the forearm, and difficulty in performing simple tasks like shaking hands or turning a doorknob. The pain can also radiate down the arm.

Treating Tennis Elbow: Ice or Heat Therapy?

When it comes to treating tennis elbow, both ice and heat therapy can be effective, but they serve different purposes in the healing process.

Ice Therapy

Ice therapy (or cold therapy) is commonly used to treat tennis elbow pain, especially right after the injury occurs or during a flare-up. Applying ice to the affected area helps reduce swelling and numbs the pain. It works by constricting blood vessels, which decreases blood flow to the area and reduces inflammation. 

To use ice therapy, wrap an ice pack in a towel and apply it to the elbow for about 15-20 minutes several times a day. This method is especially helpful in the first 48 hours after the injury.

Heat Therapy

Heat therapy is used to relieve ongoing pain and stiffness in the elbow joint. Applying heat helps increase blood flow to the area, which can relax and loosen tissues, providing relief from chronic tennis elbow pain and promoting healing. 

Heat therapy is particularly beneficial once the initial inflammation has decreased, typically a few days after the injury. To use heat therapy, apply a warm towel or heating pad to the elbow for 15-20 minutes. This can be done several times a day as needed.

Which Therapy is Best?

The best form of therapy depends on the stage of your tennis elbow and your specific symptoms. Ice therapy is best for reducing initial inflammation and numbing sharp pain. It’s most effective in the early stages or during a flare-up. Heat therapy, on the other hand, is better for chronic pain relief and to increase blood flow, which aids in the healing process.

In many cases, alternating between ice and heat therapy can provide the best results. Start with ice therapy to reduce swelling and pain, and then use heat therapy to relax muscles and increase blood flow, supporting long-term recovery. Always consult with a healthcare professional to determine the best treatment plan for your specific situation.

What Are Other Treatment Methods for Tennis Elbow?

In addition to heat and cold therapy, there are several other effective methods to treat tennis elbow and relieve elbow pain.

  • Rest and Activity Modification: Giving your elbow time to heal is crucial. Avoid activities that aggravate the pain and switch to low-impact exercises to prevent further strain.
  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy can be highly effective in treating tennis elbow. A therapist will guide you through exercises that strengthen the forearm muscles and improve flexibility. This not only helps relieve pain but also prevents future injuries.
  • Bracing: Wearing a brace or a strap around your forearm can help reduce strain on the elbow tendons. This support can be especially useful during activities that involve repetitive arm movements.
  • Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or aspirin can help reduce inflammation and manage elbow pain. In some cases, doctors may prescribe stronger medications or corticosteroid injections for more severe pain.
  • Tennis Elbow Surgery: If conservative treatments don’t work and the pain persists for several months, tennis elbow surgery may be considered. Surgery involves removing damaged tissue to alleviate pain and improve function.

By combining these methods, you can effectively treat and prevent tennis elbow, ensuring a quicker recovery and minimizing the chances of recurrence. Always consult a healthcare professional to tailor the treatment to your specific needs.

Taking the Next Step In Your Tennis Elbow Treatment 

For personalized treatment and expert care, consider scheduling an appointment with Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow. Located in Marietta and Atlanta, Georgia, our team of orthopedic specialists is dedicated to helping you find the best solution for your tennis elbow.

Don’t let pain hold you back. Contact us today to start your journey toward recovery!

Medically reviewed by

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Plastic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon