"How long will it take to fully recover from my Tennis Elbow?" is one of the most common Tennis and Golfer's Elbow treatment-related questions I’m asked – both online and in person 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 up 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.
Here's an improved, better-sounding version of this recovery time question podcast that you can download and keep by clicking the "download" link under the player below:
What Do The Big Medical Sites Say About How Long Healing And Recovery Takes?
- WebMd used to say: Tennis Elbow takes 6-12 months to heal – and that patience helps (!) Now they say: "Tennis Elbow is a common injury that will usually heal with minor treatment, but you have to give it time and rest." — WebMD
- In their 'Patient Information Sheet' The British Medical Journal says 1-3 Months – but recurrences are common. — BMJ - (PDF file)
- Cigna also says 6-12 months, but in some cases, 2 + years! "...it may take 6 to 12 months for the tendon to heal. In some cases, the pain lasts for 2 years or longer." — Cigna
- Patient.info similarly claims 6 months to 2 years! "For most people, Tennis Elbow lasts between six months and two years. Most people are better in less than one year. Unfortunately, once you have had tennis elbow, it may return." — Patient.info
- Finally, The 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 "...it can often last for several weeks or months, because tendons heal slowly. In some cases, Tennis Elbow can persist for more than a year." — NHS UK
Here's a slideshow presentation with some of these references presented graphically:
We can immediately draw at least two conclusions from this info:
- Average, typical or "expected" healing and recovery times for Tennis Elbow are basically meaningless - since there's such a wide spread of time periods in these consumer medical site 'prognoses' (and they contradict each other.)
- And IF Tennis Elbow can so easily return... If the injury tends to repeatedly "recur" - then we can easily infer that it probably never healed properly in the first place, right?
(Also, does the NHS's "self-limiting condition that can persist for over a year" SOUND like a self-healing / self-limiting injury to you?)
The point is not to be terribly pessimistic, it's just that we can't get too attached to a set "recovery time period" when it's so difficult to predict for any one person.
In other words, think positive - but don't get your hopes up so high that you're crushed if you don't heal in a few weeks or a couple of months because some consumer medical website said that "week or months" was the average time for healing!
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.
There is actually one simple, affordable way to take a look at a tendon and get an idea about whether there is any significant damage - which is a Sonogram Scan / Diagnostic Ultrasound Test.
But it's not as reliable as an MRI - and it's often not easily available. You may need to ask for it - possibly insistently!
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.
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 was right Patience does help (although they no longer say that - Was it a bit too flippant?) – 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…
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 available 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% 90-Day Money-Back Guarantee…
Learn To Treat And Heal Your Own Tennis Elbow Or Golfer's Elbow At Home With This Video Program
You'll get instant access to a complete VIDEO program designed by a professional therapist to help you take charge and break your vicious cycle of pain and frustration!...
I'll be your personal tutor guiding you through step-by-step video lessons, where you'll get the therapy techniques, key stretches and essential exercises you need to treat and recover from your injury at home. (Without any special equipment.)
Tennis Elbow sufferers, learn more here: about the Tennis Elbow Course
Golfer's Elbow sufferers, learn more here: about the Golfer's Elbow Course