Steroids no help for tennis elbow

Genevra Pittman

Getting a cortisone injection won't help tennis elbow any more than a drug-free saline shot – and it may actually slow recovery, according to an Australian study.

Researchers writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that a few weeks after receiving the steroid shots, people reported less pain and disability than those who'd been given placebo injections. But a year later, those same patients lagged behind the placebo group in their likelihood of complete recovery.


"The use of corticosteroid injection versus placebo injection resulted in worse clinical outcomes after one year, and physiotherapy did not result in any significant differences," wrote lead researcher Bill Vicenzino from the University of Queensland in Australia and his colleagues.

Tennis elbow is caused by the overuse of tendons in the elbow and typically treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy and steroid shots.

Vicenzino and his team randomly assigned 165 adults with tennis elbow to one of four treatment groups: cortisone shots with physical therapy, placebo shots with physical therapy, cortisone shots without physical therapy and placebo shots without physical therapy.