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Should You Allow Your Doctor to Give You Cortisone Shots for Tennis Elbow?

Updated on February 22, 2008

What is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow is a painful elbow disorder. It is a condition where the outer part of the elbow becomes painful and tender, usually as a result of a specific strain or overuse. It is caused through either subtle or abrupt injury of the muscle and tendon around the outside of the elbow and It is common in tennis players, (hence it's name) but most people get tennis elbow from other activities that work the same muscles, such as playing the violin or fiddle, gardening, painting, using a screwdriver or hammer. It is also associated with jobs that require repeated and/or forceful movements of the fingers, wrist, and forearm. Studies have shown that tennis elbow, (otherwise known as lateral epicondylitis) is most common in adults between the ages of 35 and 55 and as it is an overuse injury it can be prevented.

Tips for Helping Tennis Elbow

What are the symptoms of tennis elbow?

Symptoms of tennis elbow include pain that slowly increases around the outside of the elbow, that returns to top of the elbow and that gradually worsens. It radiates from the outside of the elbow to the forearm and back of the hand when grasping or using a twisting motion. Symptoms are further exacerbated by gripping or lifting even light objects.

The symptoms of tennis elbow are usually distinct, but in some cases they can be confusing as the injured area may be as a result of an incomplete healing response in an area that has poor blood circulation and therefore has difficulty accessing nutrition and oxygen which are necessary for good healing to take place.

Below are some of the common symptoms of tennis elbow:

  • Inability to carry objects or use your arm
  • Elbow pain that occurs at night or while resting
  • Elbow pain that persists beyond a few days
  • Inability to straighten or flex your arm
  • Swelling or significant bruising around the joint or arm
  • Any other unusual symptoms

If you are a suffer from any of the above then get a diagnosis from your doctor as to what is causing your discomfort.

New Research on Tennis Elbow

There is new research that has shown that tennis elbow isn't an anti-inflammatory (tendinitis) condition as previously thought but that it has shown to be tendinosis condition. The difference between these two conditions is that with tennis elbow there doesn't seem to be evidence of inflammation at the injured site. So rather than being a condition initiated by the lymphatic system it is a condition of degenerative healing within the tendon itself.

Another finding is that the use of cortisone injections as a treatment therapy don't work as they do not alter the pathological degenerative processes that occur in tendinosis (they can cause more damage to the area). What has been concluded is that a cortisone injection should only be given if the patient is unable to perform rehabilitative exercises because of pain. But that by far the best form of therapy for tennis elbow or any other tendinosis condition is a resistance based exercise program - beginning with low resistance and low repititions, building up both the intensity and number of repetitions until the injury has healed. Another point is that concentric contraction exercises - where the muscle shortens, performed slowly shoud make up the rehabilitative exercise program, combined with stretching.


Causes of Tennis Elbow

Causes for tennis elbow can include direct injury to the area as a result of a fall, motor vehicle accident, work related injury or sports related injury as well as overuse of the wrist joint in carrying, repetitive lifting, or performing fine hand manipulations e.g playing the violin.

These causes can be broken down into the following areas:

Muscle weakness, (when playing racquet sports - especially when using the single handed backhand stroke, fast court where the tennis balls are travelling very fast or heavy tennis balls.

Sudden injury, such as when falling down, trapping the arm etc.

Repetitive use of the arm, when doing carpentry or using electrical screwdrivers where there is a lot of vibration felt in the arm.

Any combination of repetition and force together .

Tennis Elbow Injuy Site

Therapies for Healing Tennis Elbow

The most important steps in the treatment of tennis elbow that you can do yourself include:

  • rest from the activities that cause the elbow discomfort,

  • use of ice packs, ice massage or medication /essential oil massage to reduce inflammation (if there is any) and pain.

Visiting a physiotherapist or physical therapist will help you to restore the elbow to its highest functioning level and help you in returning to work and playing sport.

Some of the treatments that physiotherapists use to treat tennis elbow include TENS machines, laser therapy, ultrasound, and interferential current.

Some doctors prescribe the use of heat therapy, such as warm compresses, and treat with ultrasound, and physical therapy, (manipulation and massage) to release the discomfort of their patients and heal their condition. Massage therapy can relieve muscle tension, improve blood flow, improve lymph flow, relieve pressure on the nerves, restore normal joint movement and when combined with essential oil the healing time is accelerated.

Prevent Tennis Elbow Re-occuring

To prevent an old tennis elbow injury from coming back, you should

  • continue to do strengthening exercises to keep the elbow and wrist joints mobile and strong

  • give yourself proper rest between playing sessions,

  • don't play sport or your musical instrument if your arm is painful.

  • . In addition the use of an elbow band can be very helpful to protect the elbow joint whilst playing.


Tennis elbow is a painful elbow disorder that occurs in a particular part of the elbow. It is associated with jobs that require repeated or forceful movements of the fingers, wrist, and movements of the forearm that pulls your hand in a backward motion. Also it is most common in people between 35 and 55. Tennis Elbow is typically most painful where the tendons of the forearm muscle attach to the bony point on the outside of the elbow. It is a condition caused by trauma to the tendons at the lateral epicondyle of the upper arm and is the most common injury in patients seeking medical attention for elbow pain. The type of treatment prescribed will depend on several factors, including age, type of other medications being taken, overall health, medical history,and severity of pain. If your condition does not respond to treatments for tennis elbow your doctor may suggests further test to rule out the possibility of problems with the radial nerve before suggesting surgery. However don't allow him to prescribe a course of cortisone injections as a therapy for your condition.


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I had surgery on the 5th of May for tennis elbow after a year of two cortizone injections and three months of physical therapy. The surgeon said he removed "a lot of damaged tissue" and had to drill holes in my bone and re-attach my tendons were very, very painful!!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I had the injury due to falling from the steps hurting elbow joint. The doctor gave me the cortisone shot and it relieved for three months. Then the pain arose again and after another set of seven such shots(doctor earned money) he recommends surgery. The pain is intense and I am unable to lift the weight, drive, had to leave the job. Be always aware of the situations and opt for the options if you have any.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Had cortisone shot for tennis elbow. Pain subsided for about 5 months but I have muscle atrophy and skin discoloration in elbow. Pain is excruciating now and I do not want to do another shot.

    • profile image

      Kelly G 

      6 years ago

      Had a cortisone shot on Wed for tennis elbow. It's three days later and I'm in a lot of pain and can't even curl my arm up. My suggestion do physio first.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I had the cortisone injection about 5 weeks ago. Experienced slight throbbing 3 hours after the injection, and then everything has been great since.

    • profile image

      dave choy 

      7 years ago

      I got tennis elbow from playing squash. After trying all sorts of massage, liniments, compresses and accupunction, it is the same after 2 months. Then while in China, a doctor in the government hospital gave me a cortisone jab costing 3 USD. The next day the suffering is gone and 2 days later I am back in the gym.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Had a cortisone in 1999 administered by a reputable hand surgeon. It was a brilliant result and I've never had a problem since. Now need another one in the other arm after injuring it some months ago. Have tried physio accu etc no no avail Have made app with same surgeon!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Excess cortisone in your body over a prolonged period of time, results in excessive breakdown of all structural tissues of the body including the muscles, bone, skin, and brain, causing accelerated aging.

      Check this site on tennis elbow injury:

    • Thek1ngsway profile image


      7 years ago

      Very good hub. I think that the elbow and shoulder injury's are by far the most common ones as far as tennis is concerned . I think that you have done a good job at covering the tennis elbow , there are many accumulating factors which account for eat.

      I have mentioned one indirectly on my hub (modestly) .

      Check it out if you like :

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I just got back from Urgent Care and they gave me a cortisone injection as well and I had to return to the doctor almost immediately because I got excruciating pain in my forearm and wrist. They gave me a pain injection and it has helped but I am concerned because the doctor said that that has never happened before to anyone. I went in with a pain level of about 2-3 and when I got home after the injection the level had climbed to about a 8-9 and I went back and then they shot me for the pain. So does anyone know what might cause that?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I've just had a cortisone injection in my left elbow,& was told i'd feel a little pain for about 3hrs after.It is now 25hrs since & i'm in absolute agony.The worst pain i've ever experienced,including the breaking of my wrist some years earlier.

    • profile image

      Louise Holleran 

      8 years ago

      I am a hair dresser who suffers with tennis elbow . After physio didn't work I had a cortisone injection 12 months ago. The result was brilliant pain free with full mobility for 11 months . I have just had another injection today and wondering have I done the right thing I'm in absolute agony. I don't remember it being painful last time like this !

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      he symptoms of tennis elbow are usually distinct, but in some cases they can be confusing as the injured area may be as a result of an incomplete healing response in an area that has poor blood circulation and therefore has difficulty accessing nutrition and oxygen which are necessary for good healing to take place.

      Below are some of the common symptoms of tennis elbow:

    • profile image


      8 years ago


    • profile image


      8 years ago

      i have had therapy all kinds almost two years, no improvement what so ever, this week the doctor wants to give me a cortisone injection ... and i dont know should i go for it or no ...

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      After two months of traditional therapy for tennis elbow, with nominal progress and still in a lot of pain, I gave accupuncture a try. To my amazement seven sessions later I was pain free, had full range of motion and was ready to go back to work in a limited duty status. Strengthening of the damaged tendon just takes time and can't be rushed.

    • rmr profile image


      10 years ago from Livonia, MI

      Here's an interesting tidbit for you. Alternative medicine seems to be gaining acceptance, as my insurance company actually sent me for accupuncture to treat my tennis elbow. I was amazed to find that it was more effective than any of the other treatments I had tried! Great hub!


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