I've been off work on worker's comp for three months now with tennis elbow. You wouldn't think something so simple would take so long. But there's no way I can go back to my job yet as a heavy manual laborer. One second on the job would do me in. My friends tell me to think positive and it will happen. Have I brought this on myself by my negative thoughts that I can't get to work?
It sounds like you have a realistic idea of the effect of your workload on your tennis elbow. That may not be negative thinking as much as a certain reality check. Most people with this problem know what their limitations are and if/when they are ready to go back to work.
Having said that, it's also true that patients with chronic tennis elbow who have filed a worker's compensation claim tend to take longer to recover and return to work (if they are even able to return). Depending on the job demands, it may be necessary to modify the workload (if possible), change jobs, or even retrain for a different type of occupation.
But before you go down that road, it may be a good idea at this point to revisit your orthopedic surgeon and explore your options. There are both conservative (nonoperative) and surgical ways to obtain relief. With a good rehab program, it is possible for some patients to regain strength, motion, coordination, and full function.
Studies show that patients do get better on their own after a bout of tennis elbow. But this can take 12 to 18 months. Many workers don't have the luxury of that kind of time. Surgical release of the soft tissues around the elbow (usually a tendon that's tight or rubbing across the bone) can give you pain relief. From there you can work to regain strength and motion. It may take six to eight weeks but that's a lot faster than the months to years it could take on its own.
Ruby Grewal, MD, et al. Functional Outcome of Arthroscopic Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis Tendon Release in Chronic Lateral Epicondylitis. In The Journal of Hand Surgery. May/June 2009. Vol. 34A. No. 5. Pp. 849-857.
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