Treatment for elbow pain

Successful treatment of elbow pain depends on having an accurate diagnosis. If your symptoms are not improving with simple exercises and adapting your activities, then see your GP or physiotherapist for an assessment. 

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Physio assessing patient with elbow pain

Types of physiotherapy treatment for elbow pain

Some physiotherapy treatments such as massage, electrotherapy and acupuncture have very little value in treating elbow pain and are not recommended.

Steroid injections should also be avoided in tennis or golfer’s elbow. Although they offer good short term relief it is more likely that the pain will come back and last longer overall (than if no injection was given).

If you have tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow you should initially try to reduce or modify aggravating activities for two to four weeks.

Examples of activity modification include:

  • using a computer mouse instead of a laptop trackpad
  • putting a thicker grip on your tennis racquet

How to manage elbow pain with painkillers

Try a course of anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen, if you don’t have any other medical problems such as asthma or a stomach ulcer that would cause side-effects. After this initial rest period, start to gradually strengthen the muscles around your wrist and elbow to help get back to normal activity.

Elbow arthritis can often be well managed with a combination of lifestyle modification and exercise to maintain strength and flexibility. Painkillers and steroid injections can be useful during a flare-up. In severe cases surgery, such as a joint replacement, may be advised.