Your elbow is a joint formed where the arm and forearm bones come together, called the humerus, the radius, and the ulna, along with associated muscles, ligaments, tendons, and connective tissue. If anything occurs to any of these parts, or the blood vessels and nerves around them, it can cause you pain.
The common signs and symptoms of elbow pain include:
- A dull ache when at rest
- Weak grip
- Soreness around the affected elbow bump
- Pain when opening the fingers (Tennis elbow)
- Pain when making a fist (Golfer’s elbow)
- Difficulties, pain, or numbness when trying to grasp things, especially with the arm stretched out.
There are multiple causes of elbow pain. Most of them are due to strain or overuse of the joint, usually due to work, hobbies, sports, or accidents. Following are the most common causes;
Sprains and strains: Sprains are tearing or stretching of ligaments that connect two bones, while a strain is a term used to describe tearing or stretching of the tendon or muscle. A tendon is a fibrous tissue that connects muscle to bone.
Bursitis: Inflammation of the bursae (a fluid-filled sac that cushions bones in the elbow) can be a cause of elbow pain
Tendinitis: Irritation or inflammation of the tendons that attach bones to muscles in the elbow is usually due to overuse injury.
Golfer’s elbow: known as medial epicondylitis, this condition develops due to inflammation of the tendon and the muscles of the forearm, where they are attached to the bony prominence of the inner elbow.
Tennis elbow: Also called lateral epicondylitis, tennis elbow is due to inflammation of the tendon or muscles of the forearm, where they are attached to the outer elbow joint.
Injuries: Trauma to any part of the elbow joint or connected structures such as blunt trauma, accidents, or crush injuries can cause pain in the elbow joint.
Your physician can diagnose elbow pain through:
Medical history and physical examination
- CT scan
- MRI scan
- Electromyography (EMG) studies
- Biopsy of the bursa fluid
Treatment of the elbow pain varies depending on the symptoms you experience and elbow disorder. Most conditions require conservative treatment, while surgical intervention is a last resort if your symptoms are not improving. The most common treatment options include:
Cold massage therapy helps lower the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals. It is one of the effective ways to soothe irritation and reduce inflammation of the affected joint.
Resting your affected elbow for a few helps stimulate the healing process, especially in cases of tennis elbow and Golfer’s elbow. You can use a brace to hold your arm in place.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
The use of over the counter NSAIDs can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation. The most effective options include naproxen and ibuprofen.
Physical therapy is useful in many ways. It helps increase flexibility by modifying the way you move your arm. Exercises advised by a physiotherapists such as wrist turn, wrist lift, and elbow bend can help restore range of motion.
This alternative way of treatment is becoming more and more popular to correct the underlying cause of the injury. If you don’t have a fractured elbow, chiropractic adjustments can help restore strength and promotes healing without surgery or medication.