Skip the steroids for elbow injuries

You don't have to play tennis to suffer symptoms of tennis elbow -- it can be caused by everything from golf to computer use.

But whatever the cause, the outcome is the same: Pain, and plenty of it.

One of the most common treatment for symptoms of tennis elbow is a steroid shot right in the elbow -- and if you think the injury is painful, just wait for that injection.

So let me save you some pain, because cortisone shots are a waste of time and money. They not only don't work, they can actually hinder your recovery.

In a new study, patients who got the shot had a little less pain than patients who got a placebo at the four-week mark. But a year later, they were actually less likely to have made a full recovery than patients who got that placebo.

That's in line with what we've seen before -- like the recent study where people who got steroid injections were not only less likely to make a full recovery, they were also 63 percent more likely to suffer a relapse.

And that means when it comes to symptoms  tennis elbow, it's time to take a new approach -- a drug-free approach that's proven to work, instead of proven to leave you battling more pain and disability.

Any plan to get back in action on the tennis court or golf course -- or at your computer keyboard -- has to start with a rehabilitation program that includes basic stretching exercises.

It can be a slow process, even frustrating at times. But there are drug-free ways to speed the process, ease the pain, and stimulate healing at the same time, starting with acupuncture and cold laser.

In addition, I often recommend a cutting-edge therapy called platelet-rich plasma.

A small amount of your blood is removed and spun in a centrifuge to separate the platelet-rich plasma, which is then injected back in to stimulate healing at the site of the injury.

It works so well that some of the world's top athletes swear by it.

One day, PRP will be the standard treatment for these types of injuries and symptoms of tennis elbow. But for now, you may need to do a little searching before you find a doctor who has the right amount of experience to trust with your elbow.

And if you're in Southern California, why not go where the athletes go for this cutting-edge treatment? Make an appointment to see me at the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine.