Do Creams Help Tennis Elbow? Discover the Power of Topical Treatments of 2023

Last Updated on September 17, 2023 by Robert A. Foreman

Creams can help alleviate symptoms of tennis elbow, but they do not cure the condition. Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a common overuse injury that causes pain and inflammation on the outside of the elbow.

While creams and topical ointments can provide temporary relief by reducing pain and inflammation, they do not address the underlying cause of the condition. It is important to combine the use of creams with other treatments, such as rest, physical therapy, and stretching exercises, for effective management of tennis elbow.

So, let’s dive into tennis elbow treatment with cream.

Tennis Elbow: Causes And Symptoms

Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a common condition that causes pain and inflammation in the tendons of the forearm muscles. Despite its name, this condition can affect not only tennis players but also individuals engaged in repetitive activities that strain the forearm muscles.

Understanding the causes and symptoms of tennis elbow is crucial for effective management and prevention.

Common Causes:

There are several common causes that contribute to the development of tennis elbow. These include:

  • Repetitive motions: Engaging in activities that involve repetitive motions of the wrist and arm, such as typing, painting, or using hand tools, can strain the tendons and lead to tennis elbow.
  • Incorrect technique: Using improper form or technique during sports or work-related activities, like gripping a tennis racket too tightly or using excessive force with hand tools, can increase the risk of developing tennis elbow.
  • Age and overuse: The risk of tennis elbow tends to increase with age, as the tendons become less flexible and prone to injury. Additionally, overusing the forearm muscles without proper rest and recovery can contribute to the development of this condition.


Recognizing the symptoms of tennis elbow is essential for timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Common symptoms of tennis elbow include:

  • Pain and tenderness: The primary symptom of tennis elbow is pain and tenderness on the outer part of the elbow. The discomfort can radiate down the forearm and may intensify with certain movements, such as gripping or lifting.
  • Weak grip strength: Individuals with tennis elbow may experience a weakened grip, making it challenging to perform basic tasks that require grip strength, like holding a coffee cup or shaking hands.
  • Stiffness and swelling: Some individuals may also experience stiffness and swelling around the elbow joint, further limiting their range of motion.

Do Creams Provide Relief For Tennis Elbow?

Creams for tennis elbow can offer relief by reducing pain and inflammation. These topical treatments can be a convenient option for managing symptoms and promoting healing.

Tennis elbow can be a painful and frustrating condition, causing discomfort and limiting your ability to perform daily activities. As you search for a solution to alleviate the pain and promote healing, you may come across various creams and topical treatments that claim to provide relief.

But do these creams actually work? In this section, we will explore the effectiveness of creams for tennis elbow and provide expert recommendations on their usage. So let’s dive in and find out if creams are a viable option for treating tennis elbow.

Topical Treatments

  • Topical treatments, such as creams, gels, and ointments, are applied directly to the affected area for localized relief.
  • These treatments often contain active ingredients that aim to reduce inflammation, ease pain, and promote healing.

Exploration Of Different Types Of Creams Available

  • Counterirritant creams: These creams create a cooling or warming sensation, distracting the brain from the pain signals.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) creams: These creams contain ingredients like ibuprofen or diclofenac, known for their anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Lidocaine creams: These creams numb the area, providing temporary pain relief.

Research On The Effectiveness Of Creams

  • Studies have shown mixed results regarding the effectiveness of creams for tennis elbow.
  • While some individuals may experience significant pain relief, others may not find creams to be as effective.
  • Creams may be more beneficial in the early stages of tennis elbow or as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

Comparison Of Creams And Other Treatment Options

  • Creams offer a non-invasive and relatively affordable option for managing tennis elbow.
  • However, they may not provide long-term healing and could be more effective when combined with other treatment methods.
  • Alternative treatment options include physical therapy, bracing or splinting, corticosteroid injections, and in severe cases, surgery.

Key Considerations When Using Creams For Tennis Elbow

  • Individual responses may vary, so it is important to follow the instructions provided by the cream manufacturer and consult with a healthcare professional if needed.
  • Creams should be applied to clean, dry skin and massaged gently into the affected area.
  • It is advisable to test a small patch of skin for any adverse reactions before applying the cream more extensively.

How Do Creams Work In Treating Tennis Elbow?

Topical creams are a popular treatment option for relieving the pain and discomfort associated with tennis elbow. These creams work by targeting the affected area and delivering active ingredients that can help reduce inflammation and promote healing. In this section, we will explore the mechanisms of action for topical treatments, discuss the anti-inflammatory ingredients commonly found in creams, and examine the role of creams in reducing pain and inflammation.

We will also explain how creams promote healing and recovery and discuss potential side effects.

Mechanisms Of Action For Topical Treatments:

Localized application:

Creams are applied directly to the affected area, allowing for targeted treatment and maximum effectiveness.

Penetration of active ingredients:

The active ingredients in creams are designed to penetrate the skin and reach the underlying tissues, where they can exert their therapeutic effects.

Pain relief:

Topical creams often contain analgesic ingredients that work to temporarily reduce pain signals in the affected area.

Anti-Inflammatory Ingredients In Creams:

NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs):

Creams containing NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or diclofenac, can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain.


Some creams may contain corticosteroids, which have potent anti-inflammatory properties and can provide significant relief from pain and inflammation.

Role Of Creams In Reducing Pain And Inflammation:

Direct application:

Creams allow for direct application to the affected area, providing localized relief from pain and reducing inflammation.

Faster onset of action:

Compared to oral medications, topical creams typically provide quicker relief due to their direct application on the affected area.

How Creams Promote Healing And Recovery:

Increased blood flow:

Certain creams contain ingredients that can improve blood circulation in the affected area, promoting the delivery of nutrients and oxygen essential for healing and recovery.

Collagen synthesis:

Some creams may contain ingredients that stimulate collagen synthesis, a crucial component in the repair and regeneration of damaged tissues.

Potential Side Effects Of Using Creams:

Skin irritation:

In some cases, creams may cause skin irritation, redness, or a rash at the application site. It is important to follow the instructions for use and discontinue if any adverse reactions occur.

Allergic reactions:

Some individuals may be allergic to specific ingredients in creams, leading to allergic reactions. It is essential to review the ingredients list and seek medical advice if you have known allergies.

Treatment for Tennis Elbow Problem:

Treatment for Tennis Elbow

In most cases, you should use topical creams such as Penetrex Joint & Muscle Therapy – 4 oz Cream as part of your comprehensive healing program. You should combine it with therapeutic modalities to enhance the cream’s and lotion’s effectiveness.

  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy and targeted exercises are common alternatives for tennis elbow. The exercises and physical therapies aim to strengthen the affected muscles, improve flexibility, and promote healing. You may consult a physician and exercise specialist to find the exact therapies.
  • Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT): ESWT is a non-invasive procedure. It uses high-energy shockwaves to stimulate the healing process in affected tissues. ESTW treatment is helpful for quick recovery before tournaments.
  • Corticosteroid Injections: Corticosteroid injections occasionally provide short-term relief for severe tennis elbow symptoms. It is much like the painkiller sportspersons use during their games.

Choosing The Right Cream For Tennis Elbow

  • Pain relief: 
  • Look for creams specifically designed to relieve pain associated with tennis elbow. These creams often contain ingredients like menthol or capsaicin, which provide a soothing sensation and help manage discomfort.
  • Anti-inflammatory properties: Tennis elbow is characterized by inflammation, so opt for creams that contain anti-inflammatory ingredients such as arnica or ibuprofen. These ingredients can help reduce swelling and relieve pain in the affected area.
  • Moisturizing effects: Tennis elbow can often result in dry and rough skin. Choose a cream that provides moisturizing benefits to soothe the skin and alleviate any dryness or irritation caused by the condition.
  • Absorption rate: Consider the absorption rate of the cream. Creams that are quickly absorbed into the skin allow for targeted and efficient relief, as they can reach the affected area faster.
  • Odor and consistency: Take into account the smell and consistency of the cream. Some creams may have a strong scent or a thick consistency, which may not be suitable for everyone’s preferences. Assess products based on your individual tolerance and comfort levels.

Tips For Applying Creams Effectively

To maximize the benefits of using creams for tennis elbow, follow these tips for effective application:

  • Clean the affected area: Before applying the cream, clean the skin to ensure optimal absorption and prevent any potential contamination.
  • Apply a thin layer: Use a small amount of cream and spread it evenly over the affected area. Avoid applying an excessive amount, as this may impede absorption and waste the product.
  • Massage gently: Massage the cream into the skin using gentle circular motions. This technique can help improve circulation and enhance the cream’s effectiveness.
  • Follow the recommended frequency: Check the product instructions for guidance on how frequently to apply the cream. Adhering to the recommended frequency will ensure consistent relief and optimal results.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are There Any Side Effects Of Using Creams For Tennis Elbow?

Most topical creams for Tennis Elbow have minimal side effects, but it’s important to read the instructions or consult with a healthcare professional before use. In rare cases, some individuals may experience skin irritation or an allergic reaction to certain ingredients.

How Often Should I Apply Creams For Tennis Elbow?

Application frequency may vary depending on the specific cream and its instructions. Generally, it is advisable to apply the cream 2-3 times a day or as directed by a healthcare professional. To ensure maximum benefit, it is important to follow the recommended application guidelines and continue using the cream for the duration advised.

Does Tiger Balm help with tennis elbow?

Yes, Tiger Balm is also helpful in reducing the pain and inflammatory effect for now. It works well like creams and lotions you apply on the elbow to lower the pain and increase its functionality.

Does tennis elbow ever go away?

Yes, most people will recover from tennis elbow completely within six months to 1-year through the comprehensive treatment plan. It includes the application of elbow cream, exercise, and physical activities following physicians’ suggestions.

Is it OK to work out with tennis elbow?

It would help if you didn’t exercise for the first few weeks so your tennis elbow can rest and the muscle can heal faster. After that, you can slowly get into workouts that can help the muscles to strengthen and recover sooner.


Do creams help tennis elbow? Yes, creams will lower the inflammatory effect, relieve pain, and help the muscle recover faster. You must combine the creams with physical exercise and proper resting to recover faster from elbow problems.

Nonetheless, you must be patient since the recovery period for an elbow problem can take six months to 1-year or even more. So, during this period, use recommended creams and follow suggested physical exercises to see the improvement.

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