How Long Does Tennis Elbow Take To Heal?

"Why is it taking so long to heal?" is one of the most common Tennis Elbow treatment -related questions I’m asked – both online and in my practice.

Why is it that some Tennis Elbow injuries take only weeks to recover from – while others take months or even years? And is there a way to avoid this and speed your recovery?

Because of the very nature of tendon injuries this is a tougher question than it might seem! Please watch my video above, listen to my podcast below or read the post for my best answer:

What Do The Big Medical Sites Say About How Long Healing And Recovery Takes?

  • WebMd says Tennis Elbow takes 6-12 months to heal – and that patience helps
    (Wow! Really?)
  • The British Medical Journal says 1-3 Months – but recurrences are common.
    (If it repeatedly recurs then it probably never healed in the first place, did it?)
  • Cigna also says 6-12 months, but in some cases, 2 + years!
    "Prolonged elbow pain and soreness may improve in 6 to 12 months. In some cases, the pain lasts for 2 years or longer."
    (So it hasn’t healed, in other words.)
  • NHS (National Health Services, U.K.) says that it's a "self-limiting" condition that often gets better all by itself without treatment, but can persist for over a year"
    ("Over a year" doesn't sound very self-limiting or self-healing to me!)

[See my G+ post right below for the links to these medical sites. Click the "Read More" link just above the picture on the left to expand the box.]

 

Naturally, one reason there’s such a wide range of answers to this simple question is because the injury varies so much from person to person.

Another is that treatment varies so much, of course, from the right treatment on one hand to the wrong treatment (or none at all) on the other.

It would certainly be nice if there was a simple, affordable, reliable way to measure the severity of the injury and then predict a recovery time – But there simply isn't.

(Unless you think an MRI is "simple and affordable!") Although it does currently happen to be the most reliable way of determining the extent of the damage...

You're not likely get a MRI, (covered by insurance, anyway) until you’re months down the road of chronic injury and possibly headed for surgery.

Why is this such a stubborn, frustrating, unpredictable injury?…

Healing Tendons Compared To Muscles And Bones: It's Night And Day

The simple fact is, Tennis Elbow is a tendon injury and tendons heal slowly, by nature.

I know it can be a challenging thing to face and accept when you’re in chronic pain, but that’s the simple truth.

Healing a tendon is nothing like healing muscle, skin or bone – which have rich blood supplies, which means they can heal a lot faster.

Surprisingly, a broken bone, properly set and cast, usually heals at a much more predictable, steady rate – Tendons very often don’t.

If you have a moderate to severe injury it may still be possible for your tendons to heal…

But, don't worry, I’m not about to make outrageous, unethical claims about how fast you can recover – (Like some, who promise miracle cures in as little as DAYS with their products!)

That’s not to say you can’t recover faster with the right treatment approach – You certainly can. (We’ll get to that shortly.)

Just don't give up because the "common wisdom" and the "standard treatments" didn't work!

When CAN You Expect A Faster Tennis Elbow Recovery? (The Good News)

The good news is, if your Tennis Elbow is in its earliest stage, it’s often fairly easy to reverse…

IF you catch it early, AND you follow a sensible Tennis Elbow self-help program that actually helps you treat the underlying muscular and tendon causes of your injury.

The best-case scenario can be as little as a few weeks to recover in that case...

  • Because "early warning" pain is often nothing more than a combination of muscle tension and weakness...
  • There's no real injury yet – so there’s no significant damage to heal and repair.

This is a line you really don’t want to cross if you can help it!

Because if the vicious cycle is allowed to progress, you start to have injury to your tendon(s) – Then we’re talking real damage that gets more difficult to heal.

Sadly, by the time many sufferers get really serious about treating it, it’s too late for a fast and easy turnaround and it can realistically take months to treat and heal.

I recognize that catching it early is easier said than done, and that you may be well beyond that point and already stuck in the "Triple Trap's" vicious cycle.

It's all too easy to dismiss those warning signs, at first. After all, who ever thinks they could end up being in disabling pain for months on end from something like Tennis Elbow. Come on! Really?

The Bad News: There's No Tendon Healing Time Limit (So Forget About Just Resting And Waiting)

The bad news is there is no statute of limitations on how long it can take to heal injured tendons.

Once tendon damage occurs, there’s no guarantee that ANY healing will happen at all while you’re resting, hoping and waiting.

See my article and video on why "Rest Is Rust"

Let me repeat that – This is the most important thing to keep in mind, once you have an injury, because so many people fall for the myth that "Time heals all wounds."

Just because time is passing – DOES NOT mean that healing is happening...

Even if you’ve completely stopped the activity that caused your Tennis Elbow!

That’s why the "typical" recovery time is all over the map and practically meaningless,

And why just resting and taking the "let’s wait and see" approach is not a good strategy.

Even when the pain and other symptoms disappear for a while (perhaps because you stop doing everything that could possibly aggravate it) that doesn’t necessarily mean your tendons have completely healed. (Tricky little buggers!)

With a more serious injury, it could take well over a year to heal – especially if many mistakes have been made treating it…

Particularly if multiple Cortisone shots have been given. In my experience and research it’s the absolute worst thing to do. (See Cortisone shot post and video.)

I'm sorry if I sound pessimistic, but I'm trying to paint an honest picture.

There is no simple, easy, one-size-fits-all answer to "How long is it going to take me to recover from my Tennis Elbow?"

In a way, WebMD is right Patience does help (It still sounds a bit crass) – Just not the blind, passive "rest, hope and wait" kind of patience...

But, rather, the kind where you understand what you're dealing with and commit to a sensible, active plan and stick with it, knowing very well you may have to wait a while to feel the results.

So, instead of dwelling on how long it’s going to take to heal, (since it’s so hard to predict anyway) probably a more helpful question to ask is:

What Can You Do To Heal Better And Faster?

The first thing to keep in mind is that the essence of the problem is not what's often blamed:

Neither inflammation – nor big rips or tears in the tendon (usually not, anyway.)

Instead, think 'Stagnation' – As in stuck-ness, gradual break down and failure of the healing process.

What most Tennis Elbow sufferers are facing – especially if they’re still in pain after several months, is a degenerative condition known as 'Tendinosis'
See article and video on Tendinosis

And the solution, in a word, is 'Mobilization' – To get things moving again…

As in muscles and tendons getting "unstuck," blood flowing, healing happening again, and waste being cleared out…

(As opposed to the oft-taken approach of immobilization, in the form of rest, bracing, ice, etc., which can lead to more stagnation and breakdown.)

The key to healing is to:

  • Mobilize the tissue, break up the stuck-ness and scar tissue,
  • And encourage circulation, and with it the healing process.

This starts to get a little technical, and it’s so much easier to show rather than tell!...

Which is why I spent so much time making the video self-help program for Tennis Elbow Classroom members.

To teach you exactly how to perform the same techniques I use to treat Tennis Elbow sufferers in my office, but on your own at home.

There are a million ways to "massage," manipulate and mobilize muscles and tendons, but I’ve been specializing in this for over a decade and I’m very confident I have the very best self-massage methods out there to share with you.

Sure, you could watch a bunch of free videos on YouTube and try to piece together a comprehensive program, but that can be hit or miss.

It can be hard to separate the bad advice from the good, with so many myths and misconceptions still being perpetuated by "experts."

So, take a look at my self-help program where I show you step by step how to treat (and mobilize!) your own muscles and tendons and help them heal faster – To help them fully heal.

It’s in ALL-video format, instantly available and backed by my No-Questions 100% 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee…

Learn To Treat And Heal Your Own Tennis Elbow Right Here:

Tennis Elbow Classroom Membership Card ImageYou'll get instant access to a complete VIDEO program designed by a professional therapist to help you take charge and break your vicious elbow pain and injury cycle...

I'll be your personal tutor guiding you through easy-to-follow lessons, where you'll get the therapy techniques, key stretches and essential exercises you need to treat and recover from your injury at home.

Just watch the videos, follow along and start putting an end to your elbow pain today.

Learn more, and get started here: Tennis Elbow Self-Help Program

Comments

  1. ANURAG VERMA says

    dear allen, 2 more questions.
    1.after 3 months off the tennis court+ stretching exercises & 10 days of your treatment i could not resist getting back on court & played only double backhand for three days (strictly no forehands) & felt fine. today i tried light forehand but my elbow feels a bit sore. what should i do? get back to playing only backhands or play light forehands along with your therapy & treatment or not play at all ?
    2. will acupuncture or massaging with lukewarm castor oil help?

    • says

      Anurag, My first impression is that it may be a little too much (tennis) a little too soon – Especially if you’ve just played 3-4 times consecutively or even in one week. At the same time “a little sore” might not be a bad sign if it resolves with treatment and stretching within a day or two. I would do less and gradually try to ease back into tennis with plenty of downtime for recovery. (I don’t know anything about castor oil, and in my opinion, acupuncture is mainly helpful for pain relief. I don’t see how it can help what’s going on in the muscles and tendons, but I may be wrong!)

  2. L. E. Schllife says

    do you show how to treat the elbow with a connected wrist problem of carpal tunnel? This was jarred into diagnosis with a fall.

  3. Ali says

    I have a very strenuous job which requires me to lift 50+ lbs continuously throughout my shift, lots of repetitive movements/motions,pushing or pulling 200lbs drums among other things. I was recently diagnosed with tennis elbow and I’ve been out of work a few weeks, due to not wanting to further injure my elbow and the pain from normal activities. I’ve had little to no improvement. My job will not allow me to come back with modifications, and I understand that the time to heal will vary considerably. My question is, do I try to go back and tough it out?

  4. Ankit says

    Dear Ali,

    Greetings. I developed tennis elbow in my right elbow a few weeks ago. Basically, I had propped my my laptop on something so it was inclined. I did this to raise the screen so I would not have to look down at it, but I fear this might have led to tennis elbow. It got significantly worse when I worked out and did bicep curls a few days later.

    To be honest, I am in zero pain most of the time and was able to lift a glass etc without feeling anything till a few days ago when I ended up sleeping with my right arm under my pillow and and the pain started again. I subsequently went for a massage and the therapist rubbed my elbow a little hard which in some ways I feel has taken me back to square one. I do not feel anything when I do not use my elbow but if I pick a glass up or try rotate keys in a door with my right hand then I feel discomfort in my right elbow.

    I am getting married in February 2015 and yes, I know it is a while away but I really want to train my body to be in the best shape it possibly can be and due to tennis elbow I have been unable to train my upper body for a month now and I fear for many more weeks.

    Can your video program help me enhance healing? Are there any precautions I should take while using a laptop and a mouse with my right hand.

    • says

      Hello Ankit, People get Tennis Elbow doing all sorts of things. Bad computer ergonomics is definitely high on that list. Hopefully yours is in its earliest stages and will turn out to be quickly reversible.

      Yes. The whole idea of my program is to teach you how to assist your own healing process rather than fighting it (or assuming incorrectly, in many cases, that it will just take care of itself given enough time.)

      I would think that the precautions for you would be to optimize your posture and ergonomics from now on while computing, and also to reduce the time you spend on it for a while (if possible – IF it’s not work related.)

  5. Bernard says

    Hi Dr Willette
    I’ve started rock climbing 2 months ago (bouldering) and I’ve been going every second day for 2-3 hours each time (too much apparently). Last week I felt some kind of pain in my elbows that I am now sure (after research) are tennis elbows. I didn’t feel anything while I was climbing but everytime I got off the wall it would somewhat start to hurt. Even though I don’t know anything about tendon injuries, I’m pretty confident that I have a very light case of tendonitis, since my range of motion and strength have not diminished, yet. Basically, I’m pretty sure I do not have a tendon injury, but instead a sore tendon. But the pain was annoying enough to make me worry and decide to wait a total of 4-6 weeks before returning to climb and slowly getting back to it to see if it healed. Meanwhile I’ll do the classic stretching and tennis elbow treatment exercises and I’ll keep on cycling and running, but I woud like to know if I could also keep doing some other exercises like some pull-ups and push-ups every second day IF it doesn’t hurt while I’m doing them?
    Thank you very much, and please excuse my english, this is not my mother tongue!

    B. Carignan

  6. Red John says

    Hey doctor.

    I have a tennis elbow for about a month but i caught the pain really quick and went to the doctor.
    I asked him to give me anti-inflammation shot to the arm (i think it’s cortisol), and he did.
    I felt better after 48 hours and he gave me a “pressure pad” to put right above the tendon.

    Then I saw your video and added the exercises to my healing routine and it helped a lot.

    HOW DO I KNOW IF IM HEALED?
    I workout a lot but i don’t want to make more damage to my tendon…

    Thanks!

    • says

      Hi John, (Just to be sure everybody’s on the same page, I’m not a Doctor and I want to make sure no one thinks I’m trying to pretend to be one “on the Internet”) No harm in joking around, though!

      You say you work out a lot? Did you watch my video / read my post on Which Exercises Should You Avoid When You Have Tennis Elbow?

      That info may be key for you, but ultimately you know you’re fully healed when you can do pretty much whatever you want – full speed ahead – without pain. (Full, painless function.) Which means you have to gradually test the limits, of course.

  7. C. Gentil says

    Hi Allen,
    I first had tennis elbow about 5years ago and it went without treatment after about 2months. I now am 3months into this bout of it and it really feels like it’s getting steadily worse and more painful. My job involves lots of typing so i’m not sure if this is what’s causing it. I’m currently not working so I’m hoping that might help it to cure but being a busy wife and mother with household chores to carry out it just doesn’t seem practical to “rest” it. I also bought a elbow support/brace but that seemed to make it worse! I’ve stopped using it. Reading other stuff on the internet I’m really starting to get worried that I’m going to have it for years and now that it’s 3 months plus, that I have serious damage. I’m willing to try anything to make it go away. I go to a Zumba class once a week so I don’t think that’s aggravating it? Thanks for any advice.

    • says

      I wouldn’t worry if I were you that just because it’s been 3+ months that you necessarily have serious damage. Serious damage generally doesn’t happen that quickly – and the symptoms can be out of proportion to the severity of what’s going on.

      I’ve treated many people in my clinic that have had Tennis Elbow for over a year and still probably didn’t have “serious” damage – (although it’s hard to tell without a scan) because they got better in a reasonable length of time.

      Glad to hear you stopped using the brace/support. I think that was a smart move. Try not to worry too much, I can tell you from experience that it often seems worse than it is, and most people can and do recover (faster if they do the right things to treat it, of course) – and as long as they don’t go down “Cortisone road.”

      I hope I don’t come across as too self serving ;-) but have you considered my self-help program here?

      • Caroline Gentil says

        Hi Allen,

        Thank you for your reply – I really appreciate your advice when I’m not a member of your program. I’m back at work now and although I won’t be typing I will be operating a telephone switchboard and writing out messages – I’m left handed and my tennis elbow is in my left arm, so I think I will look at your program as I can now afford it! Also with now working every day and using that arm which is painful I need to treat sooner rather than later. Thanks once again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>