Facts About Elbow Pain
- The area of union of the arm and forearm’s three long bones – namely the humerus (upper arm bone), ulna (inner bone of the forearm), and radius (outer bone of the forearm) – is located in the elbow joint.
- Usually, pain that’s felt in the elbow isn’t at all that critical. On the other hand, since that part of the body is used frequently and in many different ways, any discomfort will definitely affect everyday life.
- Unlike some joints, the elbow joint is a complex one, because it is responsible for flexing and extending the forearm, and rotating the forearm and hand. It can even perform more than one movement at the same time. And since it is capable of multiple actions simultaneously, it may be a bit tricky to determine what is really causing the pain.
- One common condition that comes from elbow soreness is tendonitis or tendonosis. And it can affect the outer or inner part of the elbow.
- The funny bone, which isn’t exactly a bone but a term when the ulnar nerve bumps against the humerus bone, can be irritated and cause tingling and numbness of the fingers.
Majority of elbow pain stems from chronic injuries. Activities, sports, jobs, and hobbies that need constant movement of hands, arms, and wrists can lead to injuries; often the symptoms will go away naturally, and other times they’re treated with medicine. Soreness in the elbow may also be caused by arthritis, the inflammation of joints. However, the elbow is generally much less susceptible to damage through wear and tear than other joints in the body.
Below are some common causes of pain in the articulatio cubiti:
- Golfer’s elbow
- Broken arm
- Dislocated elbow
- Fractured elbow
- Cubital tunnel syndrome – this happens when the ulnar nerve is either injured or irritated
- Trapped nerves
- Sprains and tears
Typically, elbow pain, especially the minor ones, goes away over time without being treated. But doing some self-care or home remedy for the pain can also help in relieving the symptoms and promoting faster healing.
Avoid overusing the elbow when it’s already in pain, as this aggravates the situation. Instead, get plenty of rest. And, if the pain becomes too much to handle, over-the-counter painkillers can be taken. If suspecting something severe, the appropriate time to seek medical attention would be now.
Physical therapy is recommended if you’ve had the pain for more than 6 weeks. You will be examined to determine where the pain is coming from. Your elbow pain may come from your neck!
Treatment will depend on the cause of the pain, but may include massage, joint mobilisation and stretching. You will also be given advice and home exercises like stretching and range of motion exercises, which aim to improve joint function and prevent joint swelling, pain, and stiffness. Triceps and biceps strengthening exercises like light weights and resistance bands may also be included in the therapy.
Physiotherapy is also recommended to patients who have recently had surgery to or near the elbow and will need to regain their strength in all muscles of the arm.
There are times when elbow pain is unresponsive to physical therapy, even after a few weeks of continuous treatment. If the pain persists, the GP might suggest a cortisone injection.
Steroid injections are the most common option for treating pain in the joints. While the procedure may seem worrying because needles are involved, it doesn’t necessarily have to be. A local steroid injection has very few known side effects, and proves to be very effective in treating tennis elbow specifically. However, if a patient has had the condition for more than six weeks, the procedure may not be as effective.
Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections are a new method that can also treat tennis elbow conditions. PRP involves taking a patient’s blood sample, and then treating the blood to improve the platelet count. It’s then re-injected to the affected area to stimulate healing. According to recently studies, PRP, apart from being able to treat patients from pain, displays far better results compared to steroid injections.
There will also be instances – but often rare instances – when even injections can’t make the pain go away. During these circumstances, surgery might be recommended by the doctor to not only get rid of the symptoms but the root cause of those symptoms as well. Surgical procedures, most of which are day-case ones, performed on a patient will vary according to the condition that he/she has.
If diagnosed with elbow osteoarthritis, a procedure called arthroscopy can be performed. Instead of open surgery, which is riskier and takes longer to heal, this makes small cuts near the affected area to examine and treat the joint. If the inside of the elbow has been found to have loose pieces of bone, they have to be taken out. If abnormal bone in the joint is discovered, it will have to be removed as well, but an open procedure is needed, since bigger incisions have to be made. If elbow osteoarthritis has rendered your elbow less than useful and flexible than it previously was, then an elbow replacement might be more proper.
Soft tissue contractures or abnormal bone development are usual causes of inflexibility of the elbow, and either one will have to be removed. After the procedure, the doctor will recommend intensive physiotherapy for the elbow to regain strength and flexibility. Despite the ability to recover fully, the movement and use of the elbow may not be as it once was.
Golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow
The golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis) and tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) are fairly similar conditions that just occur in separate locations. Whichever a patient is diagnosed with, surgery is rarely performed to treat it. But if the occasion calls for it, a golfer’s elbow operation will involve taking out the damaged tissue from the injured muscle; a tennis elbow operation will involve removing a section of the damaged tendon. Like in treating osteoarthritis, the procedure required for tennis or golfer’s elbow is arthroscopy. A patient will be able to use the elbow after the surgery, but he/she will still need physical therapy sessions to recover completely.