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Tennis elbow

Diagnosis of tennis elbow

To diagnose tennis elbow, your doctor will begin by assessing your symptoms with a physical exam and a review of your medical history. After checking strength and range of motion in your elbow, forearm, and wrist, your doctor will ask you about your work and any recreational activities.

Diagnostic tests, such as X-ray and MRI, will further help your doctor confirm a diagnosis. These tests provide a visual picture of your joint and any possible injuries that could be causing your symptoms.


Treatment for tennis elbow will take place in a Dignity Health hospital or outpatient surgical center. The goal of treatment will be to reduce pain and improve range of motion.

To do this, your doctor may recommend limiting repetitive arm motion to allow your affected muscles to rest. If pain or discomfort persists, medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be prescribed to reduce inflammation and swelling.

Physical therapy may also be recommended, including exercises to strengthen your arm muscles. You may need to wear a forearm strap or tennis elbow brace (wrist brace) to relieve stress from the affected muscle and tendon. Steroid injections may provide temporary pain relief as well.

If nonsurgical therapies and treatments do not relieve your pain after six to 12 months, an orthopedic surgeon at Dignity Health can perform tennis elbow surgery to reattach the damaged muscle and tendon to the bone.

Dignity Health offers complete care for tennis elbow as part of our orthopedic services. 


Tennis elbow is common and treatable. Most people can return to their daily activities without pain after treatment.

If your doctor has recommended physical therapy, you will likely learn exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding your elbow and relieve pain.

For those who have stubborn cases of tennis elbow that don’t improve within a few months of this treatment, your doctor may recommend steroid injections or surgery, which can take up to a year for a full recovery.

However, the vast majority of cases resolve in less than six months with treatment such as over-the-counter medication, icing, counterpressure braces or splints, and limiting activity until the joint heals. 

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.