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I have tennis elbow for over a year now, taken tablets, used straps, taped it up, had 5 cortisone injections. My go has told me I need surgery as all the tendons are wrapped around the nerves, I was looking at acupuncture as my next step, do you thin

File under muscle and bone - arm

As you might imagine, we have been asked questions about tennis elbow on a number of occasions and a typical answer has been:

Tennis elbow is one of the more frequent conditions with which people present at our practices.

 The BAcC has a factsheet which outlines some of the research which has been unertaken

 although it would be fair to say that the results are not as clear as for some other conditions for which we prepare factsheets. 

 Our clinical experience is that many people do benefit from having treatment but we are always very careful with conditions like this. If someone has four for five sessions without any apparent benefit we tend to draw a sharp line in the sand and look for alternative options for treatment. If treatment is likely to be successful there is usually some improvement, even if it reverts to being not so good again, and the improvements are incremental, i.e they get a little more pronounced each time. If nothing happens or there is a similar temporary burst of better times each time, then the chances are that acupuncture is not the best option.

 The key thing is to set measurable targets: how far can someone turn the arm without pain or restriction, how much weight can they sensibly bear, and so on. There is often also 'homework' - it is remarkable how many people want to carry on playing golf or windsurfing while they are being treated, and the concept of 'two steps forward, one step back' is difficult to get across sometimes.

 Best advice, as always, is to visit a local BAcC member for an informal assessment of what may be possible. Most BAcC members are happy to spare a few minutes without charge to see what may be possible, and this way you get to meet the practitioner and see where they work before committing to treatment.

This is still the essence of what we would say now. Further evidence keeps on being generated, as for example in this trial published last year

but the overall weight of evidence is not enough at present to make firm recommendations.

We are not quite sure what to make of your GP's suggestion. Certainly without sight of your problem we are a little in the dark. If there is strong clinical evidence suggesting that surgery is the best option then it would be wise to follow the advice you are being given. Cutting is usually only done as a last resort, and if that is what the scans and X-rays show then acupuncture may not work. However, it can certainly be said that it won't make things worse, and it might well be worth having three or four sessions to see what can be achieved to head off surgery if this is at all possible.



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BAcC Factsheets

Research based factsheets have been prepared for over 60 conditions especially for this website

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