How Is It Diagnosed
If you see your physical therapist first, your physical therapist will conduct a thorough evaluation that includes taking your health history. Your physical therapist will also ask you detailed questions about your injury, such as:
- How and when did you notice the swelling and/or pain?
- Have you been performing any repetitive activity?
- Did you receive a direct hit to the elbow, fall on it, or lean on it for a long period of time?
Your physical therapist also will perform special tests to help determine the likelihood that you have elbow bursitis. Your physical therapist will gently press on the back side of the elbow to see if it is painful to the touch, and may use additional tests to determine if other parts of your elbow are injured. Your therapist also will observe how you can move your elbow and arm, and test your strength and flexibility.
Your physical therapist will test and screen for other, more serious conditions that could cause elbow pain or swelling. To provide a definitive diagnosis, your physical therapist may collaborate with an orthopedic physician or other health care provider, who may order further tests, such as an x-ray to confirm the diagnosis and to rule out other damage to the elbow, such as a fracture or infection.
What Is Tennis Elbow
Lateral epicondylitis, commonly known as tennis elbow, is swelling of the tendons that bend your wrist backward away from your palm.
A tendon is a tough cord of tissue that connects muscles to bones. The tendon most likely involved in tennis elbow is called the extensor carpi radialis brevis. Tennis elbow is usually diagnosed in both men and women between the ages of 30 and 50 years.
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Will I Need Surgery To Treat My Severe Elbow Pain
Many causes of severe elbow pain can be treated without surgery. Rest, anti-inflammatory medications such as NSAIDs, and physical therapy will help relieve pain. Arthritis can be treated with pain medications and steroid injections. However, surgery may be indicated for severe pain that does not respond well to these treatments. In addition, some types of acute injuries to the elbow require immediate surgery to allow complete recovery.
How To Treat Elbow Tendonitis Pain
Elbow tendonitis, also called lateral epicondylitis, is an inflammation of the connective tissue that fastens the muscles in the forearm to the elbow. The tendons attach to the outside edge of the upper arm bone , where it meets the elbow. This type of elbow pain is also called tennis elbow. Learning how to treat elbow tendonitis is a good thing to know before the tendonitis pain occurs.
Tendonitis is caused by overuse of the forearm muscles, but playing a lot of tennis with its repetitive forearm motion is only one way of irritating these tendons. Plumbers, carpenters, and painters commonly develop tennis elbow as they engage in repetitive motions, too. Knowing how to treat elbow tendonitis is useful for different kinds of people who develop this elbow pain.
Other athletes also develop elbow tendonitis such as golfers and baseball players. The typical age for developing tendonitis is 30 to 50 years, but this varies widely. Every year, 1% to 3% of the population gets elbow tendonitis. Knowing how to treat elbow tendonitis is important for everyone as anyone can develop this painful condition.
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What Can I Do To Fix My Sharp Elbow Pain
Some causes of sharp elbow pain, like overuse, will resolve with conservative measures like rest and ice. If nerve compression is the cause of sharp elbow pain, splinting the elbow can help by preventing specific movements that exacerbate the problem. Physical therapy can be helpful with overuse injuries or nerve compression. Surgical management may be necessary for acute injuries or other causes that donât respond to non-surgical treatment.
Dislocation Or Fracture Of The Elbow
An injury to the elbow, such as a fall on an outstretched arm or elbow, can cause dislocation or a fracture. Dislocation occurs when a bone moves from its usual position. A fracture occurs when a bone cracks or breaks.
A healthcare provider can move the dislocated bone back into place. Theyll place the dislocated or fractured elbow in a splint or cast, and give you medication for pain and swelling. Physical therapy helps restore the range of motion after the splint or cast is removed.
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How To Treat Elbow Tendonitis At Home
If people learn how to treat lateral epicondylitis, they can often successfully treat their symptoms at home. The initial steps should be done when pain and tenderness develop over the outer elbow area:
1. Rest the arm to decrease further injury.2. Apply ice wrapped in a towel or very cold water in a paper cup to the injured area for 20 minutes. Do this 3 or 4 times a day for the first few days to minimize inflammation and further injury.3. Elbow pain and inflammation can often be treated with medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or naproxen.
Doing these things when an injury that seems like elbow tendonitis becomes apparent can improve the speed and likelihood of a full recovery. Treating elbow tendonitis at home can save time recovering.
Other options for those wanting to know how to treat elbow tendonitis at home include a tennis elbow brace. Applying a tight compression brace over the muscles and tendons just below the elbow helps to keep these structures from irritating the tendonitis by pushing the forces when using the arm down the arm and away from the center of irritation. A brace also helps to let the muscles and tendons rest.
There are a variety of braces and compression bands for people seeking treatment for elbow tendonitis. Finding the correct style and fit is somewhat a matter of personal choice, but an orthopedic specialist can also be of tremendous assistance in choosing the best device.
Doctor Examination And Tests
After discussing your symptoms and medical history, your doctor will examine your arm and elbow.
X-rays. Your doctor may recommend an x-ray to look for a foreign body or a bone spur. Bone spurs are often found on the tip of the elbow bone in patients who have had repeated instances of elbow bursitis.
Fluid testing. Your doctor may choose to take a small sample of bursal fluid with a needle to diagnose whether the bursitis is caused by infection or gout.
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When To See A Healthcare Provider
Mild elbow pain can frequently be addressed using some at-home treatments detailed above. That said, there are certain situations where a healthcare provider should assess your symptoms. These include:
- Pain or other symptoms that occur after a fall or acute injury
- Pain that is severe or getting worse
- Progressive weakness in the arm or hand
- Feelings of instability or shifting in the elbow
- Numbness or tingling that extends down the arm
- Swelling or warmth in the elbow, especially if it is present in several joints.
Elbow Sprains And Strains
A sprain is the abnormal stretching or tear in a ligament. A strain is the abnormal stretching or tear of the muscle or tendon. Overuse and traumatic injuries, like accidents or falls, are common causes of sprains and strains. Elbow sprains are common in athletes that throw, use a racquet, or play contact sports.
Pain, bruising, and swelling are common signs of an elbow sprain or strain. You may have difficulty extending or bending your arm. Home remedies like rest, ice, compression bandages, and elevation can help. Tears can be more serious and may require surgery. Signs of tears include pain, swelling, bruising, and a bulge in your upper arm. If you suspect a tear, you should see an orthopedist a soon as possible.
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Can Particular Activities Cause Severe Elbow Pain To Develop
Certain activities can pose a greater likelihood of developing elbow pain. Repetitive motions involving the elbow, such as throwing, can lead to pain in the biceps tendon. Repeatedly leaning on the elbows for long periods of time can also cause inflammation and pain in the bursa, a fluid-filled structure that pads the tip of the elbow. Excessive use of the elbow over time may eventually cause arthritis to develop.
Biceps And Triceps Tendonitis
The biceps tendon is a tough, fibrous tissue that connects the biceps muscle to the front of the elbow bone. The triceps tendon connects the triceps muscle to the back of the elbow bone.
Biceps tendonitis is often caused by repetitive biceps muscle use. Lifting heavy boxes is one example. It causes an aching pain in front of the elbow. Triceps tendonitis causes an aching pain at the back of the elbow. It happens when people extend their elbow with resistance over and over again. Weightlifters are prone to this type of injury.
If a biceps or triceps tendon ruptures, there’s a sudden, severe pain and a snapping or popping feeling. The elbow and forearm may bruise or swell. You may even see a lump on the upper arm.
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Living With Tennis Elbow
Most people recover from tennis elbow after treatment. You may need physical therapy or a brace to help manage ongoing symptoms or prevent them from coming back.
- The pain does not improve or gets worse.
- The area becomes red or swollen.
- You have trouble moving your arm.
- You see a lump or bulge on your arm.
What Are The Signs Of Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow usually develops gradually, starting off as mild discomfort and worsening as time passes. In most cases, there is no specific incident that can be linked to the start of the symptoms.
Many people suffering from tennis elbow experience recurring pain radiating from the elbow all the way down the forearm, with pain that increases when they attempt to extend or straighten the elbow. Other common signs of tennis elbow include:
- Difficulty grasping or lifting objects
- Weak grip strength
- Sharp twinges when engaged in activities using the elbow
- Pain during and after activities involving the wrist
- Numbness or tingling in the fingers
- A dull ache when resting
Tennis elbow most often affects your dominant arm, meaning that right-handed people are more likely to develop tennis elbow in their right elbow and left-handed people are more likely to develop tennis elbow in their left elbow. However, it is possible for people to develop the condition in both arms. It is estimated that up to 20 percent of patients have some degree of bilateral tennis elbow.
Tennis elbow is usually considered degenerative rather than acute. If left untreated, tennis elbow can progress to the point where you have difficulty with simple everyday activities such as turning a doorknob, shaking hands, brushing your teeth or holding a coffee cup.
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Key Points About Lateral Epicondylitis
Lateral epicondylitis, or tennis elbow, is swelling or tearing of the tendons that bend your wrist backward away from your palm.
Its caused by repetitive motion of the forearm muscles, which attach to the outside of your elbow. The muscles and tendons become sore from excessive strain.
Symptoms include pain, burning, or an ache along the outside of the forearm and elbow. It gets worse and may spread down to the wrist if the person continues the activity that causes the condition. The grip may become weak.
Lateral epicondylitis is diagnosed by an exam of the elbow joint. The healthcare provider may need an X-ray or MRI to see whats causing the problem. An EMG may be done to look for nerve problems.
Lateral epicondylitis can be treated with rest and medicines to help with the inflammation. Exercises often help too. Rarely, surgery may be done to repair the tendon.
You can help prevent lateral epicondylitis by doing things like warming up before exercise or sports, increasing activity slowly, using the right equipment for activities, and strengthening your arm muscles.
Follow your healthcare providers recommendations to get rest and manage pain and swelling. Let your healthcare provider know if these strategies dont help reduce pain, swelling, and loss of function.
Can Severe Elbow Pain Be Caused By An Infection
Yes, severe pain in the elbow can be a sign of joint infection . A recent injury breaking the skin over the joint can allow bacteria to enter. Chronic conditions such as arthritis in the elbow or a weakened immune system increase the risk of septic arthritis. Symptoms other than pain include redness, swelling, warmth, and fever. Emergency treatment, including drainage, is necessary to prevent irreversible damage to the elbow joint.
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Medical Conditions That Can Cause Elbow Pain
- radiohumeral bursitis bursitis is inflammation of a bursa. Bursae are small sacs that contain fluid to lubricate moving parts such as joints, muscles and tendons. Bursitis may be caused by repetitive use or frequent pressure or by injury to the elbow
- osteoarthritis the joint cartilage becomes brittle and splits. Some pieces of cartilage may even break away and float around inside the synovial fluid . This can lead to inflammation and pain
- referred pain injuries to the bones of the spine can irritate the nerves servicing the arm and cause referred pain around the elbow joint
- nerve entrapment the radial nerve is the main nerve of the arm. If this nerve cant move freely, it can cause pain when the arm is stretched out. The radial nerve can be pinched by vertebrae or the elbow joint. There is evidence to suggest that nerve entrapment contributes to the pain of tennis elbow in some cases
- ligament sprain joints are held together and supported by tough bands of connective tissue called ligaments. A sprain is a type of joint injury characterised by tearing of the ligaments
- bone fracture a heavy fall or blow to the elbow may cause one of the bones to break or crack
- avulsion fracture a powerful muscle contraction can wrench the tendon free and pull out pieces of bone
- osteochondritis dissecans in younger people, a piece of cartilage and bone can become loose in the joint.
Elbow Tender To The Touch Pain Relieving Tips That Work
Pain in your elbow can be caused by one of three things.
Blemishes or damage to the soft tissues above the bone at the tip of your elbow.
Many people are prone to it which can eventually lead to swelling and pain.
Tennis elbow Pain occurs when the muscles and tendons outside the elbow deteriorate due to overuse.
Elbow tenderness on the outer part of the elbow is a frequent symptom and sign.
Some of these affected extension and flexion muscles which connect at your elbow and above the point of the elbow, often are the main source of your pain.
According to the numerous medical sources, it can takes 6 months to 2 years to overcome it, although most people recover within a year.
Golfers elbow can also cause pain.
This tennis is very similar to the elbow but affects the muscles and tendons inside the elbow rather than the outside.
Individuals suffering through frequent bouts of elbow pain predominantly complain of two things:
Firstly, within the first few days of injury their elbow is tender to the touch either inside or outside.
Secondly, some time has usually passed and their elbow hurts even more that it did on the day of injury.
But youre probably wondering:
Are there simple steps that I can take today to help relieve the tenderness and uncomfortable feeling in my elbow?
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Can This Injury Or Condition Be Prevented
Your physical therapist can recommend a home program to help prevent elbow bursitis. It may include strength and flexibility exercises for the arm muscles.
To help prevent a recurrence of the injury, your physical therapist may advise you to:
- Avoid leaning on your elbow as much as possible.
- Use a wrist guard/pad on your desk to cushion your elbow when you do lean on it.
- Use a proper typing arm position that does not involve leaning on the elbows.
- Avoid hard hits or prolonged pressure to the tip of the elbow.
- Use elbow pads during sports or other physically challenging activities to protect your elbow.
- Follow a consistent flexibility and strengthening exercise program, especially for the elbow muscles, to maintain good physical conditioning, even in a sport’s off-season.
- Always warm up before starting a sport or heavy physical activity.
- Gradually increase any athletic activity, rather than suddenly increasing the activity amount or intensity.