When To See A Doctor For Elbow Pain
Typically, this pain begins mildly and can be managed on your own with rest and stretches. However, if the pain continues for more than a week or worsens despite resting, you should schedule an appointment with a physical therapist.
A physical therapist can help to strengthen and stretch your forearm muscle, which in turn will help heal the connective tissue at the elbow. Most cases of tennis elbow can be successfully treated through physical therapy alone. It is uncommon to need surgery for this condition unless youve left it untreated for a significant amount of time and have not rested. For this reason, its important to see a doctor after a week or two of pain and to not wait if your symptoms dont improve.
What You Can Do Right Now About Your Elbow Pain
Editors Note: Todays post is written by Betsy Schack, OTR/L. Betsy is an occupational/hand therapist at Athletico Skokie and Athletico Park Ridge.
Does it seem like you cant get through the day without having pain in your elbow? You go to lift your laundry basket, pull a door open, or even try to twist off the cap to your water bottle and feel pain or soreness. Elbow pain is one of the most common problems occupational/hand therapists treat. Two of the most common elbow diagnoses are tennis elbow and golfers elbow. Depending on the cause and location of your pain, it can be treated easily and effectively with a few simple steps.
Step 1: Identify the location of your elbow pain.On the outside of your elbow is a bony prominence called the lateral epicondyle. Tenderness at this point is most likely lateral epicondylitis, commonly known as tennis elbow. If you press on the inside of your elbow there is another bony prominence called the medial epicondyle. Tenderness at this point is most likely medial epicondylitis or golfers elbow.
In general, there are 4 things you can do for your elbow pain RIGHT NOW. It is a good idea to avoid heavy lifting and gripping to allow your arm to rest and recover. Anything that is causing your elbow pain is most likely making your condition worse and should be avoided.
|Wrist flexor stretch for medial elbow pain||Wrist extensor stretch for lateral elbow pain|
3. Counterforce brace
4. Wrist immobilization brace
Treatment Options At Weiss For Elbow Pain
The Chicago Center for Orthopedics at Weiss has orthopedic specialists covering every bone and joint, including experts in elbow, arm, and hand injuries.
Treatment for elbow pain will depend on the individual and the injury, but seeking help for elbow pain doesnt have to be intimidating. Treatment for an elbow injury may include physical therapy, bracing, injections, or surgical options. Your CCO physician will prescribe a treatment plan that is tailored to your needs.
For an appointment with a specialist to help you with your elbow pain, call 866-696-9830 today.
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Elbow Injuries And Causes Of Elbow Pain
Elbow injuries can be caused by overuse, trauma or, less commonly, wear and tear. Below are some common elbow injuries and causes of elbow pain.
- Arm or elbow fracture: a broken bone in the arm or elbow can cause considerable pain, even visible deformity.
- Elbow dislocation: when the forearm and upper arm bones become out of place with each other, the elbow joint is dislocated.
- Elbow sprain: a torn or stretched elbow ligament injury.
- Tendonitis: inflammation of tendons and connective tissue in the elbow.
- Bursitis: inflammation of the elbow joint.
- Ulnar Collateral Ligament Injury : frayed, torn, or loose elbow ligament due to overuse. Check out this story about Weiss orthopedic surgeon Dr. Preston Wolins effort to reduce this common injury in young athletes.
- Flexor tendonitis : a painful condition in which tendons in the forearm become attached to a bone on the inside of the elbow.
- Lateral epicondylitis : inflammation of the tendons linking the muscles of the forearm to the elbow.
- Valgus Extension Overload : overuse injury leading to abnormal cartilage deterioration and bone spurs.
- Osteoarthritis: more common in weight-bearing joints, such as the knees and hips, this is when the cartilage of the elbow is damaged or worn out.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: chronic inflammation of the elbow joint.
- Osteochondritis dissecans: less common in adults than in children, its caused by a lack of blood supply, leading to parts of bone separating, cracking, or loosening in a joint.
Elbow Joint Ligaments And Tendons
The elbow joint is supported by ligaments and tendons, which provide stability to the joint.
Ligaments are a group of firm tissues that connect bones to other bones. The most important ligaments of the elbow joint are the:
- Medial or ulnar collateral ligament: comprised of triangular bands of tissue on the inner side of the elbow joint.
- Lateral or radial collateral ligament: a thin band of tissue on the outer side of the elbow joint.
- Together, the medial and lateral ligaments are the main source of stability and hold the humerus and ulna tightly in place during movement of the arm.
- Annular ligament: These are a group of fibers that surrounds the radial head, and holds the ulna and radius tightly in place during movement of the arm.
- The ligaments around a joint combine to form a joint capsule that contains synovial fluid.
- Any injury to these ligaments can lead to instability of the elbow joint.
Tendons are bands of connective tissue fibers that connect muscle to bone. The various tendons which surround the elbow joint include:
- Biceps tendon: attaches the biceps muscle to the radius, allowing the elbow to bend.
- Triceps tendon: attaches the triceps muscle to the ulna, allowing the elbow to straighten.
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What Causes Tennis Elbow
Repetitive arm movements can cause your forearm muscles to get fatigued. A single tendon attaches this muscle to the bony bump on the outside of your elbow . As your muscle gets tired, the tendon takes more of the load. This overloading can cause inflammation and pain, known as tendinitis. Over time, this overloading can cause a degenerative condition known as tendinosis. Together tendinitis and tendinosis can then lead to tendon tearing.
Sometimes, a sudden arm or elbow injury causes tennis elbow. Rarely, people develop the condition for no known reason .
What Are The Symptoms Of Medial Epicondylitis
The most common symptom of medial epicondylitis is pain along the palm side of the forearm, from the elbow to the wrist, on the same side as the little finger. The pain can be felt when bending the wrist toward the palm against resistance, or when squeezing a rubber ball.
The symptoms of medial epicondylitis may look like other medical problems or conditions. Always see your doctor for a diagnosis.
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What To Expect At Your Office Visit
Your provider will examine you and carefully check your elbow. You will be asked questions about your medical history and symptoms such as:
- Are both elbows affected?
- Does the pain shift from the elbow to other joints?
- Is the pain over the outside bony prominence of the elbow?
- Did the pain begin suddenly and severely?
- Did the pain begin slowly and mildly and then get worse?
- Is the pain getting better on its own?
- Did the pain begin after an injury?
- What makes the pain better or worse?
- Is there pain that goes from the elbow down to the hand?
Treatment depends on the cause, but may involve:
How Is Medial Epicondylitis Diagnosed
The diagnosis of medial epicondylitis usually can be made based on a physical examination. The doctor may rest the arm on a table, palm side up, and ask the person to raise the hand by bending the wrist against resistance. If a person has medial epicondylitis, pain usually is felt in the inner aspect of the elbow.
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Competitive Athletes And Sports Enthusiasts
Overtraining can ultimately lead to elbow strain and diminished performance during actual competition, especially among competitive-minded individuals working to perfect a specific movement.
Many times these are professional athletes who make too may repetitions with a specific move and overdo it to the point they cause pain and inflammation that leads to injury.
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Exercises For Pain Relief
Research supports the following types of exercises as helping to reduce pain and improve outcomes for people with tennis elbow:
- Eccentric exercises: Muscles lengthen under tension when performing eccentric exercises. A 2014 study found that these exercises reduced pain in people with tennis elbow. Wrist extensor strengthening, a specific type of eccentric exercise, may help lessen tennis elbow pain, according to a 2015 research review.
- Isometric exercises: In isometric exercises, muscles tense up and contract without visibly moving. A 2018 study found that isometric wrist extension exercises reduced tennis elbow pain. However, this exercise alone may not otherwise improve the condition.
- Static stretching exercises: For most effective treatment and pain relief, a 2013 comparison study noted that eccentric exercises should be combined with static stretching exercises.
Multiple studies have indicated that aquatic exercises and strength training may be effective for reducing osteoarthritis pain in the knees and hips. However, more research is needed on exercises to reduce pain from elbow osteoarthritis and other elbow disorders.
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What Causes Medial Epicondylitis
Medial epicondylitis is caused by the excessive force used to bend the wrist toward the palm. This can happen when swinging a golf club or pitching a baseball. Other possible causes of medial epicondylitis include:
Serving with great force in tennis or using a spin serve
Weak shoulder and wrist muscles
Using a too tightly strung, too short, or too heavy tennis racket
Throwing a javelin
Frequent use of other hand tools on a continuous basis
Inner Elbow Pain Treatment
The best course of treatment for inner elbow pain will depend on the underlying cause. In most cases, the best place to start is to rest from any aggravating activities to allow the affected tissues to heal. This may be combined with medication, steroid injections, physical therapy and rehab exercises to improve the strength, flexibility and endurance of the elbow.
You can find out more about how to treat the most common causes of inner elbow pain in the biceps tendonitis, golfers elbow and cubital tunnel syndrome sections.
Alternatively, if the pain is more on the outer side of your elbow, visit the lateral elbow pain section.
Page Last Updated: 12/08/2022
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When Arm Pain Is An Emergency
Most of the time arm pain isnt a sign of a medical emergency. In many cases, you can treat arm pain with home remedies. However, you should get emergency medical in some cases.
You should call 911 immediately if you suspect that a heart attack, or another heart condition, is causing your arm pain.
Other symptoms of a heart attack include:
- chest pain or pressure
Treatments for arm pain will vary on the cause and the severity of your arm pain.
Treatments for arm pain can include the following:
- Pain medication. For some cases, pain in the arm may be severe enough that your doctor will prescribe pain medication.
- Anti-inflammatory medications. For pain due to inflammation, anti-inflammatory medications like corticosteroids can help reduce the underlying cause and the subsequent pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs are available as oral medications, injections, and intravenous medications.
- Physical therapy. You may need to treat some arm pain with physical therapy, particularly when you have a limited range of motion.
- Surgery. In severe cases of arm pain, surgery may be necessary. Examples include torn ligaments and broken bones.
In addition to the medications your doctor can prescribe for arm pain, you can use a variety of treatments at home.
Examples of home remedies for arm pain include:
Pain On Outside Of Elbow Summary
- The most common cause of pain on the outside of the elbow is Tennis Elbow
- Other possible causes of outer elbow pain include radial tunnel syndrome, radiohumeral bursitis, osteochondritis dissecans, synovitis and elbow fractures
- Most cases of outer elbow pain are due to repetitive overuse of the forearm muscles from sports, manual labor, gripping and typing.
- The earlier you start treatment for outside elbow pain, the quicker recovery is likely to be
- Treatment for lateral elbow pain usually involves a combination of rest, ice, medications, an elbow brace/strap, injections, exercises and occasionally surgery
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Ulnar Nerve Entrapment Of Elbow
Ulnar nerve entrapment of elbow is also called cubital tunnel syndrome. The ulnar nerve begins at the spinal cord in the neck and runs down the arm into the hand. This very long nerve can become compressed, or entrapped, by other structures at certain points along the way. Entrapment often happens in the cubital tunnel, which is the narrow passage at the inside of the elbow.
The exact cause for entrapment may not be known. Fluid buildup and swelling inside the elbow previous elbow fracture or dislocation or leaning on the elbow for long periods of time can put pressure on the ulnar nerve inside the cubital tunnel.
Symptoms include numbness and tingling of the hand and fingers, sometimes leading to weakness and even muscle wasting in the hand.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination, x-ray, and nerve conduction studies.
Treatment begins with wearing a supportive brace and adjusting activities to avoid further irritating the nerve. Surgery is usually not needed unless the nerve compression is causing weakness and loss of use in the hand.
Top Symptoms: hand weakness, weakness in one hand, numbness in one hand, pain in one elbow, pain in one forearm
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Whats The Difference Between Tennis Elbow And Golfers Elbow
Tennis elbow is a condition of the lateral epicondyle tendon, or outer part of the elbow. Golfers elbow is a condition of the medial epicondyle tendon, or inner part of the elbow. The medical term for golfers elbow is medial epicondylitis.
People with golfers elbow have inner elbow pain that radiates down the arm. They can also have finger numbness and tingling. Golfers can get tennis elbow, just as tennis players may get golfers elbow.
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Other Health Conditions That Cause Elbow Pain
Angina is a health condition that involves reduced blood flow to the heart muscles as a result of narrowing of the blood vessels. Individuals with angina may experience a dull, throbbing pain in the chest, neck, and left arm as a symptom of the condition, particularly during physical activity or when they undergo stress.
Gout is another health condition characterized by the formation of sharp crystals at various locations around the body, including inside the elbow joints. This is due to a high concentration of uric acid in the body. This can cause severe elbow pain during a gout attack.
Olecranon bursitis is the build up of fluid inside the fold of smooth synovial membrane that cushions the olecranon . This can cause pain and inflammation.
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What It Might Mean If You Have Elbow Pain When Straightening Your Arm
We use our arms every day for the majority of our favorite activities and our daily tasks, like getting dressed, taking a shower or working. When you have elbow pain when straightening your arm, it can be difficult to do much of anything you need to get done in your daily life.
There are different reasons you may have elbow pain when straightening your arm. Take a moment to look at these reasons below and discover why you might need to see a physical therapist for treatment.
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Why Do I Feel Pain When Bending And Straightening My Elbow
It happens when you close a cabinet door. You do it when youre drinking coffee. What is it exactly? The answer is bending and straightening your elbow. Yet even normal, seemingly easy, tasks like these can be more difficult if these movements are triggering elbow pain.
There are many issues that can trigger pain when youre bending and straightening your elbow. Wading through the sea of possible conditions isnt something you should do on your own. Physical therapists have the expertise and training to help you determine the cause of your elbow pain, and they offer many techniques that can help treat your elbow pain, too.
Urgent Advice: Get Advice From 111 Now If Your Arm:
- hurts when you exercise but the pain goes away when you rest
- is swollen and you have a very high temperature or feel hot and shivery
- is extremely painful and difficult to move
- tingles or feels numb
- has been injured and you heard a snapping noise or your arm has changed shape
These can be signs of a heart problem , an infection or a broken arm.
111 will tell you what to do. They can tell you the right place to get help if you need to see someone.
Go to 111.nhs.uk or .
Go to an urgent treatment centre
Urgent treatment centres are places you can go if you need to see someone now.
They’re also called walk-in centres or minor injuries units.
You may be seen quicker than you would at A& E.
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