Mild cases of tennis elbow can be treated at home. The priority is to rest the injured tendon by stopping or changing the activity causing the problem. To relieve symptoms you can:
Apply an ice pack – for a maximum of 20 minutes, up to 6 times/day. A bag of frozen peas wrapped in a damp cloth works well because it moulds to the shape of the arm. Ensure that the skin does not change colour (the sign of an ice burn). If the skin has turned bright pink or red after a few minutes, stop using the ice. Applying a film of oil (cooking oil will do) to the skin before applying the pack helps to avoid burning the skin.
Anti-inflammatory drugs – used topically preferably, applied to the area 3-4 times daily. If necessary take ibuprofen tablets – according to the directions on the packet, up to the maximum daily dose. Avoid these if you have a history of indigestion or stomach ulcers, and possibly if you have asthma.
Wear an arm brace – available from larger pharmacies and sports shops.
Change techniques – When doing a manual task you really cannot avoid, change the grip size; use a tool with a smaller grip. If available, contact your employer’s occupational health advisers.
See a Doctor if:
- Your elbow pain continues after three weeks of self-care
- Your feel sharp, shooting pain even at rest (sitting and sleeping)
- Your elbow swells
- You see or feel a dent in the tendon (possible tear)
- You feel unusual numbness or tingling in your forearm or hand (possible circulation or nerve problems)
- Your hand or fingers are blue and cold (possible circulation problem)
- Your elbow is red and hot and you have a fever (possible infection)