It is fair to say most people do not enjoy being in pain and want instant gratification. The idea of getting a cortisone injection in your elbow to make your pain go away fast sounds tempting. However, think twice.
According to an article by Coombes et al. published in the Journal of Orthopedics & Sports Physical Therapy in 2015 - “There is strong evidence that corticosteroid medication provides short-term relief of pain but leads to worse outcomes after 6 and 12 months compared to either a wait-and-see approach or physical therapy management, with substantial recurrence rates.”
According to another article by Taylor & Hannafin published in the journal of Sports Health in 2012 - “Corticosteroid injections improved symptoms at 6 weeks but showed no difference when compared with controls at 3 and 12 months.”
So what does this mean? Instant pain-relief may not be worth it in the long term. We have to understand and consider the implications this treatment can have on the tendon as well as the joint and surrounding tissues. Also, because there is no more pain, there is no reason to do elbow [P]Rehab exercises right? This is the mindset we hear about all the time that can lead to elbow issues coming back and ultimately worse long-term outcomes.
Ultimately, we do not advocate a cortisone shot being the first line of treatment for tennis elbow.
1. Taylor SA, Hannafin JA (2012) Evaluation and management of elbow tendinopathy. Sports Health 4: 384-393.
2. Coombes BK, Bisset L, Vicenzino B. Management of lateral elbow tendinopathy: one size does not fit all. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2015;45:938- 949.