ElbowElbow pain is an annoying problem to say the least. Let’s put aside the elbow pain that comes from a fracture, dislocation or tendon rupture. That is an emergent problem that you need to take care of right away. What is left is another sort of elbow pain.

It is a pain that frequently comes on gradually and stays and stays and stays. Anytime you grab a glass or turn a door knob, there it is saying, “I’m still here. ” It may get better with rest but as soon as you try to twist, grip or turn something, there it is. You have taken an anti-inflammatory. It took some of the edge off. Didn’t last. You just want it fixed. What do you do?

There are a number of entities that can cause elbow problems like those described above. They include what’s commonly called tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow as well as bursitis and arthritis.

Let’s talk about one of the most common pains about the elbow. That is the pain that occurs over the inside or outside of the elbow near the bony prominences. It is due to an inflammation of the bony attachment of the muscles that either extend the wrist on the outside or flex the smaller fingers of the hand on the inside.

It is due to repetitive gripping of the hand in a situation where the muscles are not conditioned to handle the frequency or intensity of contractions. The repetitive pulling on the boney attachment exceeds the strength of the attachment and the fibrous attachment starts weakening.

The body tries to repair the attachment but without appropriate rest or strengthening the healing tissue is not strong enough to stand up to the use and the repair gets pulls apart.

There are other problems that cause elbow pain. These occur inside the joint or over the prominence of the elbow. They may be associated with swelling or catching. If problem is not severe, there are some treatments you can start at home. If you don’t feel comfortable starting treatment on your own, you should of course see a doctor.

The first thing you do in any event is rest. That not only means doing less with your elbow, but also with your wrist and your hands as well. What moves the hand is attached at the elbow. Pain is telling you that the structure involved is not strong enough to do what you are asking it to do. So you have to ask it to do less even to the point of doing nothing if you have to. If you do that the pain should decrease and stop.

If you go to use it and the pain picks up again, that means you exceeded what the injured part is able to do. You stop. You need to use it less. In short the goal is to use that arm within the pain free range of activity.

There are some tricks you can do to use your hand and elbow more without aggravating your elbow. One is to use the noninvolved hand more if possible. It might feel awkward at first, but the more you practice the better you will get.

Another trick is to change the grip of any tool you might be using. You will want to go with a thicker grip that will make it easier to use the tool. Wrapping the handle with something that is rough and a good absorbent will also help.

The result is that you won’t have to squeeze the handle as hard to get a secure grip. For you golfers with pain in your elbow, also known as golfer’s elbow, have someone check your swing out.

Once you have found an activity where you don’t have pain you can’t stop. If you stop you probably aren’t going to be able to get back to where you were. So that is where an appropriate rehabilitation program comes in. That’s another place where a doctor can help you.

If you don’t have success with any of these approaches then it might mean that the problem is too big for you body to handle on its own. In this case you may need surgery. A doctor can guide you down the path of treatment to recovery.

Do you have more questions? 

How is tennis elbow diagnosed?

Tennis elbow is diagnosed through a physical examination, medical history review, and sometimes imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI scans to rule out other conditions and assess the extent of damage.

What are the treatment options for tennis elbow?

Treatment options for tennis elbow may include rest, ice therapy, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroid injections, bracing or splinting, and in severe cases, surgery.

Can tennis elbow heal on its own without treatment?

In some cases, tennis elbow may improve with rest and conservative measures, but persistent symptoms may require medical intervention for relief.

How long does it take to recover from tennis elbow?

Recovery from tennis elbow varies depending on the severity of the condition and the effectiveness of treatment, but it may take several weeks to months for symptoms to resolve completely.

What are the risk factors for developing tennis elbow?

Risk factors for developing tennis elbow include repetitive arm motions, overuse of the forearm muscles, improper technique during sports or activities, and certain occupations that involve repetitive gripping or wrist extension.

How can tennis players prevent tennis elbow?

Tennis players can prevent tennis elbow by using proper technique, warming up before playing, using equipment with the correct grip size and string tension, strengthening forearm muscles, and avoiding overuse or repetitive motions.

What is golfer’s elbow and how does it differ from tennis elbow?

Golfer’s elbow, or medial epicondylitis, is a condition characterized by pain and inflammation on the inside of the elbow, whereas tennis elbow affects the outside of the elbow. Golfer’s elbow is typically caused by repetitive wrist flexion and gripping activities.

How is golfer’s elbow diagnosed and treated?

Golfer’s elbow is diagnosed and treated similarly to tennis elbow, with a physical examination, medical history review, imaging tests, and conservative measures such as rest, ice therapy, physical therapy, medications, injections, and surgery in severe cases.

Can elbow fractures heal without surgery?

Some elbow fractures may heal without surgery, particularly if the fracture is stable and well-aligned. However, certain fractures may require surgical intervention to realign the bones and facilitate proper healing.

What are the complications associated with elbow fractures?

Complications associated with elbow fractures may include stiffness, loss of range of motion, instability, nerve or blood vessel injury, nonunion (failure of bones to heal), malunion (improper bone alignment), and post-traumatic arthritis.

How is elbow arthritis diagnosed and managed?

Elbow arthritis is diagnosed through a combination of physical examination, medical history review, imaging tests, and sometimes arthroscopy. Management may include conservative measures such as rest, activity modification, medications, injections, physical therapy, and in severe cases, surgery.

Can elbow arthritis be cured?

Elbow arthritis cannot be cured, but symptoms can often be managed effectively with appropriate treatment to improve joint function and alleviate pain.

What are the surgical options for treating elbow arthritis?

Surgical options for treating elbow arthritis may include arthroscopic debridement, osteotomy (bone realignment), joint fusion (arthrodesis), and joint replacement (arthroplasty), depending on the severity of the condition and patient factors.

What is cubital tunnel syndrome and how is it treated?

Cubital tunnel syndrome is a condition caused by compression or irritation of the ulnar nerve at the elbow, leading to pain, numbness, and weakness in the hand and forearm. Treatment may include conservative measures such as activity modification, splinting, medications, physical therapy, and in severe cases, surgery to relieve pressure on the nerve.

What are the potential complications of cubital tunnel syndrome?

Potential complications of cubital tunnel syndrome may include chronic pain, weakness, muscle wasting, and loss of sensation in the hand and fingers, as well as decreased grip strength and difficulty performing daily activities.

How can cubital tunnel syndrome be prevented?

Cubital tunnel syndrome can be prevented or minimized by avoiding prolonged pressure on the elbow, maintaining good posture, avoiding activities that involve repetitive bending of the elbow, and using ergonomic equipment or padding to reduce pressure on the nerve.

What are the risks of surgery for cubital tunnel syndrome?

Risks of surgery for cubital tunnel syndrome may include infection, nerve injury, bleeding, scar tissue formation, and failure to relieve symptoms. However, surgery is often effective in alleviating symptoms and improving nerve function when conservative measures fail.

How long does it take to recover from surgery for cubital tunnel syndrome?

Recovery from surgery for cubital tunnel syndrome varies depending on the type of procedure performed

I am Vedant Vaksha, Fellowship trained Spine, Sports and Arthroscopic Surgeon at Complete Orthopedics. I take care of patients with ailments of the neck, back, shoulder, knee, elbow and ankle. I personally approve this content and have written most of it myself.

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