Treatments I Have Tried
This text was written as a reply to a post to the RSI-UK mailing list, seeking information about tennis elbow.
I was diagnosed with tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) almost 10 years ago. Mine
has been described by various doctors/physiotherapists as "very chronic",
"early (God knows how he managed to reach this conclusion considering I started
having the symptoms 20 years ago!)", "mild" and "non-typical" I am not
actually sure if this diagnosis is correct, but all the medical practitioners I
have seen seem to agree that I have tennis elbow (despite an apparent lack of
pain in resisted wrist extension tests, which are used to diagnose the
condition) but are puzzled as to why it does not respond well to any
If your condition developed only recently and is not chronic, you've got a much
better chance of full recovery. My husband also had an acute case of tennis
elbow from working on a badly positioned till, but he is now pain-free after
leaving the job 4 years ago.
Anyway, here is a short list of information available on the Internet:
Treatments I have tried:
- Ibuprofen tablets had to stop because of stomach irritation.
- Ibuprofen gel no relief (maybe I should have applied it more thickly).
- Celebrex no effect.
From NHS physiotherapists:
- Elbow splint similar to the elbow strap/brace shown on the linked pages listed above but
is rigid. I was told to wear it when working. Felt great for a while, but then the pain moved to the inside of the
elbow so I had to stop wearing it.
- Ultrasound no effect.
- Friction massage painful but some temporary relief afterwards (but not
available on ongoing basis from NHS so I had to stop).
- TENS seems to help for a short while, but no lasting effect.
- Acupuncture no effect.
From NHS orthopaedic consultants:
- Steroid injection very painful for 3 days, then back to the normal level of
- Surgery (extensor release), followed by 1 month off work and some physiotherapy
"last resort" as warned by consultant. Enjoyed a totally pain-free 3 months
following return to work, then pain crept back.
Things I do to get relief:
- Resistive exercises using theraband (prescribed by a physio) made the pain worse at first, but seem to help a
Note: I've had to stop resistive exercises prescribed by a physio because I started getting pains in my wrists and thumb joints, which seem to be made worse by these exercises.
- Stretches (also prescribed by the same physio) more to do with general
posture than tennis elbow but good for breaks at work. I also do some stretches for tennis elbow relief.
Note: Some stretch exercises for tennis elbow put a lot of strain on the wrist, so beware!
- Swimming twice a week my arms feel a lot lighter and more mobile after a
session. Also great for neck/shoulder/upper back muscle tension caused by static posture.
- Ice pack (occasionally) a physio recommended this, but to me it gets too
uncomfortable before I get any relief. Maybe I should alternate that with a
heat pack as heat also seems to help.
- TENS I always carry a small TENS unit I bought from Boots when I go for a
long walk (I love walking, but my arms start hurting after a while). It gives
temporary relief, but you have to make sure you know how to use it correctly.
Changes made at work:
- Keyboard tray I find it more comfortable to type when the keyboard is positioned very low and tilted away from me (i.e., tilted so that the space bar is higher than the function keys), and fitting an adjustable keyboard tray under
your desk seems to be the easiest way to make this sort of adjustment possible.
- Break timer software I use freeware called Break Reminder (downloadable from
http://www.cheqsoft.com/break.html) when I am not using voice recognition.
- Voice recognition software since my condition worsened (and started
affecting the left arm as well as the right) at the end of last year, I've been
using Dragon NaturallySpeaking and find it indispensable. I don't think I would
have been able to continue working without it.
Things I'm thinking about trying:
- Physiotherapy on private (from a sport injury clinic), osteopathy,
chiropractic, traditional Chinese acupuncture problem is I can't use
work's medical insurance as tennis elbow is a pre-existing condition.
- Touchpad to replace the mouse. Or I might keep the mouse too, get a splitter
and switch between the two.
Please note that the above list is based on my experience only. Everybody is different and every body is different, so your mileage may vary. Simptoms may also change, so something that once worked may not work forever.
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Last updated: 4 January 2003