Treatment options for tennis elbow 

Simple painkillers

Tablets such as paracetamol or aspirin, which are available over the counter

  • easy to take
  • readily available
  • may not be suitable for long-term pain relief or if pain is severe
  • children under 16 years of age should not take aspirin
Anti-inflammatory creams and gels (NSAIDs)

Creams and gels containing non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which are applied directly to the elbow to relieve pain and reduce inflammation

  • easy to apply
  • some types are available over the counter
  • cannot be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding
  • some are unsuitable for children
  • lack of evidence to support use of NSAIDs for long-term pain relief
  • possible side effect of ketoprofen is hypersensitivity to light (photophobia)
Corticosteroid injections

Medicine containing steroid hormones that is injected into the elbow area to reduce pain and swelling

  • quick relief of symptoms
  • effective short-term pain relief
  • injections can be painful
  • potential side effects can include atrophy (wasting away of surrounding tissue) and lightening of the skin
  • ineffective for long-term pain relief (after six weeks)
  • six-week interval required in between treatments
  • symptoms may return

Physical techniques, such as massage, manipulation, and stretching and strengthening exercises to relieve symptoms. Bandages and tennis elbow splints can also be used as part of treatment

  • may provide more effective long-term pain relief than corticosteroid injections
  • could be a long waiting time for physiotherapy treatment
Shock wave therapy

High-energy sound waves are passed through the skin into the area that is causing pain. The aim is to relieve pain and improve movement

  • can be repeated as many times as necessary
  • can help to relieve pain and improve movement of the arm
  • lack of evidence to show how effective the procedure is
  • possible side effects include skin damage, bruising, reddening and rupture (tear) of the extensor tendon, which is attached to the forearm muscle and allows the fingers and thumb to straighten
  • follow-up appointments needed for at least a year following treatment
  • limited availability on the NHS

A complementary medicine; needles are inserted directly into the skin surrounding the affected area to provide pain relief

  • side effects usually mild and short-lived
  • lack of evidence to show that it is effective for treating tennis elbow
  • access on the NHS can be limited in some parts of the country (many people pay for private treatment)

The damaged part of the tendon is removed; recommended when non-surgical treatments have failed

  • may work when all other treatment options have failed
  • an invasive form of treatment that requires a long recovery period
  • lack of evidence regarding the effectiveness of surgery