Having tennis elbow can be painful and keep you away from the tennis court. Once you are diagnosed with the condition, how long it takes you to recover will depend on how serious you take the treatment, physical therapy and, if necessary, the medicine. If left untreated, the condition could worsen, prolonging your return to the court. A fast recovery takes commitment, patience and time.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, treatment can initially consist of rest and ice, weeks of physical therapy, or in some cases even surgery. According to Todd Ellenbecker, D.P.T., 90 percent of tennis elbow cases will not require surgery to alleviate the pain. Your visit to the doctor will determine what route you need to take. Your doctor will diagnose the severity of your tennis elbow and send you to a physical therapist. The physical therapist utilizes the doctor’s diagnosis to create a personal rehab plan for you. How fast you recover is totally up to you and your commitment to the treatment and plan.
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications will be part of the treatment prescribed by your doctor. Advil, Tylenol and Aleve are the most common. In some cases, you may require an injection of corticosteroids. There are topical corticosteroids as well. The medicine will take the pain and swelling away for extended periods of time and help your pain. If pain persists, your doctor may prescribe stronger medicine. Medicine will help, as part of your personal plan.
Physical therapy consists of ultrasound, massage therapy, manual therapy and stretching exercises. It helps in recovery of the inflamed area and strengthening the wrist and forearm muscles. Depending on the severity of your tennis elbow, various treatments may last for a couple weeks, or in extreme cases a few years. This is a gradual process, and over the course of therapy exercises will progress in difficulty and new exercises will be added.
Sitting on a chair or bench, hold a 2.5-lb. dumbbell in your hand, palm facing down with your arm relaxed on your leg. Slowly move your wrist down then bring it back up keeping your arm straight. Continue this for about 2 minutes. Another common exercise is a rope curl. This exercise is executed standing up, arms straight out in front of you. With a 2.5 to 5 lb. dumbbell tied to the rope which at the other end is tied to a stick, grasp the stick with both hands and begin to roll up the dumbbell. After you roll up the dumbbell, roll it back down. Do this 3 times.
Follow your personal plan. Make sure you do everything that is required by your doctor and physical therapist. Let them know if you are feeling pain. The amount of communication you have with them will help you in your recovery. The time frame of recovery will depend on how well you are reacting to the treatment, medicine and physical therapy.