You have had surgery to repair a tendon in your elbow. The surgeon made a cut (incision) over the tendon, then scraped away (excise) the unhealthy part of your tendon and repaired it.
What to Expect
Soon after surgery, severe pain will decrease, but you may have mild soreness for 3 to 6 months.
Place ice packs on the dressing (bandage) over your wound (incision) 4 to 6 times a day for about 20 minutes each time. Wrap the ice in a clean towel or cloth. DO NOT place it directly on the dressing. Ice helps keep swelling down.
Taking ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or other similar medicines may help. Ask your doctor about using them.
Your doctor may give you a prescription for pain medicines. Get it filled on your way home so you have it when you need it.
The first week after surgery you may have a thick bandage or a splint. You should begin moving your arm gently, as recommended by your surgeon.
After the first week, your bandage, splint, and stitches will be removed.
Keep your bandage and your wound clean and dry. Your surgeon will tell you when it is ok to change your address. Also change your dressing if it gets dirty or wet.
You will likely see your surgeon in about 1 week.
Activity and Exercise
You should start stretching exercises after the splint is removed to increase flexibility and range of motion. The surgeon may also refer you to see a physical therapist to work on stretching and strengthening your forearm muscles. This can begin after 3 to 4 weeks. Keep doing the exercises for as long as you are told. This helps ensure tennis elbow will not return.
You may be prescribed a wrist brace. If so, wear it to avoid extending your wrist and pulling on the repaired elbow tendon.
You should be able to return to normal activity and sports after 4 to 6 months.
When to Call the Doctor
After the operation, call the surgeon if you notice any of the following around your elbow:
- Severe or increased pain
- Changes in skin color around or below your elbow
- Numbness or tingling in your fingers or hand
- Your hand or fingers look darker than normal or are cool to the touch
- Or if you have other worrying symptoms
Lateral epicondylitis surgery - discharge; Lateral tendinosis surgery - discharge; Lateral tennis elbow surgery - discharge
Gosens T. Lateral and medical epicondylitis. In: Stanley D, Trail IA, eds. Operative Elbow Surgery. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2012:chap 35.
Wolf JM. Elbow tendinopathies and bursitis. In: Miller MD, Thompson SR, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine: Principles and Practice. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 65.
Update Date 11/26/2014
Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.