Tennis elbow? There are two non-surgical options that may work when all else fails

·1 min read

Q. I have had pain on the outside of my right elbow for more than six months.

I used to work out with weights regularly until the elbow pain started. I rested it for a month but when I went back to the gym, it came back.

I have tried physical therapy but it did not help much. The doctor gave me a cortisone shot that only helped for a few weeks.

My orthopedic surgeon says the next step is surgery to repair a tendon in my elbow. Are there any other non-surgical options? If I do the surgery, what is the likelihood of success and my return to the gym?

A. Chronic repetitive stresses such as weight training, computer use or tennis can result in partial tearing of the extensor carpi radialis breves tendon on the outside of the elbow.

The tendon can be very slow to heal as it has a very poor microcirculation. This condition is known as lateral epicondylitis or tennis elbow.

You have tried the traditional non-surgical methods of treatment. I have seen success with two other non-surgical options in many patients.

A PRP injection to your elbow obtained from plasma in your own blood has been shown in medical studies to have a 50-70% cure rate in patients that have failed traditional treatment.

Another option is a high energy shock wave treatment called orthotripsy, which has a 70% cure rate in similar patients.

You may want to get a second opinion to see if these treatments have a good chance of success for your elbow. In patients that do fail non-surgical treatment and then proceed to have surgery, return to sports is successful about 90% of the time.

Dr. Harlan Selesnick is team physician of the Miami Heat and director of Miami Sports Medicine Fellowship, Doctors Hospital. Send your questions to

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