The shoulders and elbows are very important joints that can be easily injured. Injuries and pain in these areas can limit activity and greatly affect quality of life. Understanding the potential reasons of elbow discomfort is crucial, as is looking for the best treatments available. Our team of committed healthcare specialists at LifeSpan Medicine offers thorough, individualized therapy to help you get over elbow pain and regain your strength.
Often the most common elbow injuries can be treated with physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medicines or an injection of steroid or platelet rich plasma (PRP). However, some elbow injuries are more serious and require specialized care.
Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is pain, swelling, or tenderness on the outside of your elbow. You may also have trouble straightening your arm and gripping things. It is caused by repeated stress to the tendons that control the motion of your wrist and fingers. Your doctor can diagnose the problem with a physical exam. They will ask you about your work and sports activities, and how the pain started. They may apply pressure on the affected area and ask you to move your elbow, wrist, and fingers in different ways.
This repetitive stress causes tiny tears in the tendon where it attaches to the bone on the outside of your elbow. The pain usually starts with playing tennis or other racket sports, but it can happen from other types of activities, too. Treatments for tennis elbow include rest, ice, medicines to reduce inflammation, and physical therapy. These treatments can help you get back to your usual activities sooner.
The inner portion of your elbow has a bony bump that is the center of pain with golfer’s elbow (also called medial epicondylitis). This condition results from damage to the tendons where they attach to this bony bump on the inside of your elbow. The pain typically centers on this area and might spread into your wrist or forearm. People who are golfers and those who use repeated arm motions and clench their fingers are especially prone to this condition.
Symptoms include tenderness on the inside of your elbow, stiffness and weakness in your hands or wrist. You may also experience tingling in your little fingers or in the palm of your hand. This condition is diagnosed with a physical exam and by performing tests where your doctor presses on the affected area and moves your elbow, wrist and fingers in various ways. X-rays or an MRI might be ordered. Surgical intervention is only necessary if conservative treatments are ineffective.
Tendons are cord-like structures that connect muscles to bone, and they transmit the force needed to generate movement. Injury and overuse can weaken these structures, making them susceptible to damage and resulting in pain and tenderness.
If you’re experiencing achy, dull pain or stiffness in your elbow, you may have tendinitis. This is an overuse injury that causes the tendons to become inflamed.
Home treatment options include resting the affected area and applying ice packs to reduce inflammation and pain. Over-the-counter NSAIDs and corticosteroid injections can also be helpful.
Physical therapy can help improve muscle tone, flexibility and strength while encouraging tendon health. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and stem cell injections are also viable options to encourage healing. If conservative treatments don’t work, surgery may be necessary to remove the damaged part of a tendon or to replace it with a graft.
The elbow is the most used joint in the body, making it susceptible to injury and wear-and-tear. Symptoms include inflammation, tenderness, and pain that is worsened by activity or weather changes. The joint may also feel stiff or lock in place and make a grating noise during movement.
Arthritis can be caused by natural wear and tear, or from autoimmune diseases or infections. Medications can help control the symptoms. They can range from NSAIDs (available over the counter) that reduce both pain and inflammation, to disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs).
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical history, do a physical exam, and order X-rays or blood tests. They will look for signs of infection and arthritis. They might also do an ultrasound of the joint. Changing your activities, using splints or braces, and taking medication are the most common treatment options. If these aren’t helping, surgery can replace the damaged joint with an artificial one.