This page will give you information about surgery for tennis elbow. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.
What is tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow is caused by wear and tear of the tendons on the outside of your elbow, causing pain, stiffness and, sometimes, weakness.
What are the benefits of surgery?
9 in 10 people heal within a year without surgery. The main benefit of surgery is to get relief from the symptoms more quickly.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
Resting your elbow when you have symptoms and not doing the activities that cause pain will treat the condition but it can take up to 2 years to recover fully.
Physiotherapy can help you to recover more quickly.
Some people may also benefit from wearing a splint.
A steroid injection into your elbow joint can sometimes reduce pain and stiffness for several months.
Injections of blood, taken from a vein in your arm and injected into your elbow, are more effective than other types of injection.
Sometimes an injection of hyaluronic acid can improve symptoms.
What does the operation involve?
The operation usually takes about 30 minutes.
Your surgeon will usually make two small cuts, about half a centimetre long, around the joint. They will insert a small telescope through one of the cuts so they can examine the joint. They will insert surgical instruments through the other cut to remove the damaged part of the tendon and to treat any other problems with the joint.
The operation is similar but is performed through a 4 to 5 centimetre cut made on the outside of your elbow.
What complications can happen?
Some of these can be serious and can even cause death.
General complications of any operation
- infection of the surgical site (wound)
- unsightly scarring of your skin
Specific complications of this operation
- bleeding into the joint
- infection in your elbow joint
- severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of your arm and hand
- damage to nerves around the joint
- damage to the radial nerve
How soon will I recover?
You should be able to go home the same day.
The physiotherapist may give you exercises and advice to help you to recover from the operation.
It can take a few weeks to get back to normal activities.
Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.
Most people have a major improvement and a quicker return to normal activities.
Tennis elbow is caused by wear and tear of the tendons on the outside of your elbow. The main benefit of surgery is to get relief from the symptoms more quickly.
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Last reviewed: September 2019