Elbow Pain Treatments: Options and What You Should Know

Elbow Pain Treatments: Options and What You Should Know

By: Professional Physical Therapy

Did you know that tennis elbow is one of the most common causes of elbow pain? It affects anywhere from 2 to 3% of the U.S. population. This means up to 9.9 million Americans live with chronic elbow pain.

About half of all tennis players get Tennis elbow at some point. For many, this means needing some severe elbow pain treatment and management. That said, this condition isn’t only limited to athletes.

Repetitive strain from training, labor, or playing instruments, can lead to tennis elbow. Working as a cashier or playing computer games for long hours can also cause similar results. The key factor is constant and repetitive arm and elbow movement – especially at awkward angles.

Anyone can suffer from tennis elbow, and the risk increases as you age. The good news is you don’t have to live in pain. There are several great options for treating tennis elbow.

1. Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is tailor-made for whatever body injury, health condition, or disability you might have. It helps you manage your pain and restore as much movement and function as possible. Many people know about the more extreme example of physical rehab, where the injury is super severe.

Physical therapy isn’t just for specific injuries. PT helps when your body’s mobility or function is weak but not destroyed. For many, it’s the best treatment available to treat elbow pain since it’s non-invasive.

This means that there’s no need for surgery or expensive procedures. Instead, physical therapists first identify the cause of your elbow pain. Afterward, your physical therapists will customize a treatment program specific to your needs.

Elbow treatment programs usually involve a combination of:

  • Manual therapy
  • Specialized exercises
  • Ice or heat treatment
  • Patient education

These treatments help cure elbow pain by improving your mobility. Your PT provider will use various techniques to reduce the tightness in your joints and soft tissues. This will allow your muscles and joints to move more freely, lessening the pain.

Building Strength and Lessening Elbow Pain

One of the first things to realize is that the elbow is one of the most used parts of the body. It often bears a lot of stress, weight, and pressure in day-to-day life. Because of this, a lot of PT for your elbow will involve building up strength in that area.

This is typical for treating many similar injuries and joint pain in general. You’ll do resistance training to build muscle and prevent aggravating the damage to your elbow. It’s likely to be painful and difficult in the beginning but will almost always pay off in the end.

Learning how and when to take it easy is also important. Your PT provider can help you plan a schedule that works for you. An example of things you could do are:

  • Alternating rest days with PT training
  • Resting your problem elbow by strengthening the other one
  • Avoiding unnecessary actions that strain your joints
  • Learn proper movement techniques for sports or lifting
  • Listen to your body and stop if it’s too painful

If you try to lift your grocery bags and start feeling too much strain or pain in the elbow, then stop. Your PT can show you how to use your core and shoulders to reduce stress on your elbows and wrists.

Injections, Surgery, and Physical Therapy

Depending on where you are in your injury and healing journey, injections and surgery may be suggested to you by various members of your care team. You may seek physical therapy to avoid these procedures or heal from them. Our PT team can also help determine if these procedures may be the right part of your treatment, and even assist in finding you the best referrals for your local area. Along the way, PT plays a vital role in preventing, conditioning you for, and recovering from injections and surgery as a supplement to the work you’re doing in our clinics.

2. Treat Elbow Pain with Injections

If the pain continues, your doctor might suggest that you get injections. The most common types of injections are:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Platelet-rich plasma

It’s important to distinguish the difference between corticosteroids and anabolics. Anabolic steroids are the super illegal ones used by dishonest weight lifters. They come with serious health risks and are strongly discouraged.


Corticosteroids are legal and pretty safe. They’re essentially the hormone cortisol, which comes from your adrenal glands. They help reduce inflammation and swelling, which can be a game changer for elbow pain.

There are a few essential things to consider about corticosteroid injections:

  • It only offers temporary pain relief
  • You should still seek other treatments like additional PT
  • If you have chronic tennis or golfer’s elbow, it can make things worse
  • Athletes, Lifters, or people with chronic arthritis should try the alternative

Platelet-rich Plasma

Platelet-rich plasma could work a lot better for elbow pain treatment. This is especially for those with chronic pain. Steroids offer pain relief, but platelets could offer actual healing.

This means you might be able to cure your elbow pain for good. Getting a platelet-rich plasma injection is a simple process.

  • It starts by getting a blood sample from you
  • The clinic will use your plasma and platelets to create an injection
  • The injection will go right where the pain originates from
  • The reintroduced platelets should stimulate tissue healing in your elbow
  • This healing should result in an end to your chronic pain

3. Elbow Surgeries are an Option

Most elbow muscle pain cases heal with elbow exercises or elbow therapy. As a last resort, surgery could be necessary to help treat symptoms. The type of surgery you’ll need will depend on the cause of the elbow pain.

The circumstances surrounding your condition are also an important deciding factor. Here’s the long and short of it:

  • A medical profession will consider if the pain is chronic or recent
  • A severe golfer’s elbow might get treated with a medial epicondyle release
  • Your pain could be from chronic arthritis
  • Loose pieces of bone causing arthritis could require an arthroscopy
  • It’s possible for tissue shortening or new bone growth to be the cause.
  • Most surgeries that involve the removal of bones or tissue will require physiotherapy.
  • Usually, elbow operations are one-day procedures. This means you’ll be able to go home the same day you walked in.

Most medical professionals agree that surgery should be your absolute last resort. Only opt for it if you’ve exhausted all options and can’t live with the pain or discomfort anymore.

Elbow Pain Treatment at Professional Physical Therapy

Many people treat elbow pain as a trivial or everyday experience that would go away on its own. However, elbow pain often means serious damage, which can worsen if left alone. Chronic elbow pain can restrict your movements and make even dressing impossible.

Don’t overlook your elbow health; look into elbow pain treatment options today. Here at Professional Physical Therapy, we’re serious about treating physical pain. Request an appointment at Professional and let our team of pros help you on your road to recovery today.

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