No matter how minor the surgery, the decision to “go under the knife” is a big one and should not be taken lightly. If you are suffering with tennis elbow and can’t seem to find relief via other solutions, then you are most likely entertaining the idea of getting surgery some day soon. The purpose of today’s article is to give you a general idea on what you can expect after tennis elbow surgery.
Types of Tennis Elbow Surgery
In case you aren’t exactly sure what Tennis Elbow is, it’s a condition that is caused by damage to the tendons that connect your arm muscles to the elbow itself. (Refer to our post “5 Common Signs That You Have Tennis Elbow” for information). This injury is fairly common in those who regularly play racket-based sports (tennis, squash, etc) — but it is also common in those who work in an environment/job that involves repetitive motion as well as high impact to the elbow area. Surgery is often recommended for those who are suffering from severe or long-term pain. For example, those who struggle to do basic tasks like lifting a pot from the stove, or even picking up a cup of coffee from the desk, may be candidates for surgery. Often, participants in competitive sports will opt for tennis elbow surgery if the pain isn’t going away as fast as they would like.
There are two common types of surgery available for Tennis Elbow sufferers. The kind of surgery your surgeon will suggest is often based on your particular situation (among of damage, other symptoms, etc.) as well as his or her (and your) personal preferences. The two types are:
- Open surgery – This is a traditional surgery where an incision is made over the impacted area along the side of the elbow. The surgeon will be able to remove the damaged tendon and then carefully re-attach the healthy part of the tendon back directly to the bone. If needed, the surgeon may also remove a small part of the bone, which can help it heal faster.
- Arthroscopy – This one is a less-invasive option. With arthroscopy, the surgeon will create a small incision around the problem area and will then insert a small tube inside the incision (with a miniature camera attached to it) which allows the surgeon to get a better view of the problem that you are having. Then, depending on the problem, the surgeon may make some additional incisions which he/she will use to insert small instruments into, to repair the damage.
Both kinds of surgery require closure after it is done. This is either done with traditional stitches or staples. It is considered an out-patient surgery, and patients often go home the same day. If a traditional open surgery is requested, however, there may be some patients who will be kept overnight for observation. Again, this all depends on the surgeon performing the surgery and your current situation.
What to Expect After Surgery
One tennis elbow surgery has been completed — regardless of the method chosen — there are some important things that will happen after it. It’s important that you are prepared for these before the surgery takes place so that you can make the most out of your recovery. Here are some of the main things that you can expect after surgery:
- Unfortunately, there will be some pain. The good news is that you can work with your doctor ahead of time to get the right pain relief medication to help with the recovery process.
- Many people feel nauseous after surgery, so it’s best to stick to small portions of bland, easy-to-digest food such as yogurt or plain rice.
- You will need to rest frequently during recovery, especially in the few days after the surgery. So plan your scheduled/activities accordingly, because even minor surgery takes it toll on the body.
- You should wait 24-48 hours after surgery to shower and you will need to make sure you keep your bandage dry and covered.
- You will need to keep your incision(s) covered for a week (unless otherwise specified by your surgeon) and change the bandage if it gets dirty.
- You will need to use elbow ice packs or a cold therapy wrap throughout the day to keep the swelling and inflammation down. A general rule of thumb is 15-20 mins every 2 hours for the first 3 days after surgery and then when needed (i.e.: for pain relief).
- You will most likely need to do rehabilitation for the elbow as it recovers. This includes stretching, strength training, physiotherapy and possibly more depending on the type of surgery and your situation. Make sure you discuss the recovery process with your professional healthcare provider ahead of time.
- It will take 3-6 weeks to go return to normal daily activities and it may take anywhere from 3-12 weeks before you can go back to work, depending on the type of job you have.
- Your recovery may take longer if you are a smoker, so quitting before surgery could be helpful to lesson the recovery time.
- You shouldn’t get back to driving until your doctor tells you that it is safe to do so.
- It’s possible that you may suffer from nerve or blood vessel damage to your elbow. This is a complication that can arise from any and all surgeries. Keep on eye on pain levels and odd sensations following your surgery and discuss them with your doctor.
Surgery should never be the first option because it can bring unintended consequences and, of course, discomfort to the patient. However, it is often required to help improve quality of life. If there is one thing we want you to learn from this article, is that you can never be too prepared for surgery. Do you research and talk to people who have undergone surgery to get their opinions and tips/tricks. If you have undergone Tennis Elbow surgery, we’d love to hear from you. Did it help? Or were things the same afterwards? Any tip/tricks for our readers? Just use the comment box below! Until next time. Also, check out the Elbow Pain section of our blog for additional information.
Disclaimer – As you know, we aren’t doctors here at SimplyJnJ. The information on “What To Expect After Tennis Elbow Surgery” that we provided here today, is for informational purposes only. Always consult your doctor before undertaking any procedure.
6 thoughts on “What To Expect After Tennis Elbow Surgery”
Is it better to use heat or cold for tennis elbow?
It’s different for everyone. Some people only find relief with cold/ice therapy, while others find that alternating between the two is what works for them. One will numb the pain while the other relaxes the muscles around the affected area. If you want to test it out, I found a great article about tennis elbow the other day (https://www.painscience.com/articles/tennis-elbow.php) that suggests the double-sink method where you have one sink filled with cold water and the other with hot water (just not too hot where it’s unbearable) and you alternate between the two. Normally 10-15 minutes each. It might be worth a try to see which one provides more relief.
I am one week out from surgery and the pain is already better than it was before I had surgery. The worst times the pain is about the same as before. So far I’m glad I had the surgery. The bandaging is supposed to stay on for 2 weeks. It is getting uncomfortable and annoying. Thank you for the information.
Hi Dana – I’m sorry for the late reply. I’m really glad to hear that the pain is getting better. Yes, the bandages can become annoying for sure, but sounds like you don’t have too long to go with them. Good luck with the recovery!
I am two weeks after surgery. I guess I had the open surgery as there’s only 1 scar about 1 inch long.
I took various painkillers for the first week, including prescription. Now I am taking paracetamol at nighttime only.
The bruising and swelling has gone down a lot, but I still have quite a swelling over the scar. I am massaging it with E45 cream.
I am back driving and doing regular day to day activities, even though I am not using my right arm where possible.
I have a lot of movement back in my elbow, but still cant touch my own shoulder of the affected arm. Physio starts next week, so hopefully will be back playing sport before you know it!
That’s great new Paul! Sounds like things are progressing well. Thanks for sharing your story.