Cortisol Shot Down for Tennis Elbow Healing

posted on: August 26, 2016    |    by: Adam Reith

Ever felt pain in your elbow after a hard day on the courts or golf course?  That would be tennis elbow, a common injury to those muscles and tendons.  And if you’re like many sufferers, you received a cortisone shot to reduce inflammation and speed healing.

Over the past decade, however, advanced technology has led the medical community to question this quick-fix approach.  While professionals used to believe that tennis elbow was caused by inflammation, they now understand that tissue degradation is in fact the primary culprit. This finding in turn caused researchers to question whether inflammation reducers like cortisol represent the right therapy.

In a 2015 clinical study, a medical group in Norway investigated 177 people with tennis elbow to explore cortisol’s relative performance in injury repair vs. a placebo or no treatment[1].  They measured pain over a year and found that, as expected after years of clinical use, cortisol-treated people felt less pain than did the other groups at 6 weeks.  Interestingly, however, at 12 weeks the researchers found that pain in all groups had equalized and at 6 months, the cortisone-treated people had significantly more pain than did members of the other groups.

Unfortunately this study wasn’t powered to explore therapeutic alternatives but it did call into question the cortisol status quo.  In another blog post, I’ll talk about some cutting edge therapies that may address both pain reduction AND healing.


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