Elbow 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.
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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