I've had pain along the outside of my elbow for a while. I've tried physical therapy in the past. My new doctor wants me to wear a brace and do physical therapy again. He thinks these things will keep me from needing surgery. Is he right?

Research shows that people with this condition--commonly known as tennis elbow--are twice as likely to need surgery if they've already tried bracing and physical therapy without success for their sore elbow.

A recent study looked at 97 patients with tennis elbow. Thirty-eight percent of the patients who had already been treated for elbow pain wound up having surgery, versus 19 percent of those who had not.

Still, 62 percent of the patients who had been treated before didn't have surgery. So there's some chance that bracing and physical therapy will give you better results the second time around.

If you want to give nonoperative treatment another try, talk with your doctor about what's expected and how long you'll need to continue before other options are considered.