Overview of Elbow Pain
Can you imagine not being able to stretch out your arms? Elbow pain is extremely common and most likely will affect many people at some point in their life. Your elbow is a joint formed where three bones come together. Each bone has cartilage on the end, which helps it absorb shocks and slide against each other. They’re set into place with tough tissues called ligaments. Your tendons connect your bones to muscles that allow you to move your arm in different ways. If anything happens to any of these parts, or the nerves and blood vessels around them, it can cause you pain which in turn will limit you from having the ability to use your arm to its full capacity.
Pain in your elbow can be particularly disappointing since we use our arms for most tasks that we perform on a daily basis. Elbow injuries can range from: dislocated bows, strains and sprains, fractured elbows, bursitis, golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow which are tendinitis, trapped nerves, arm stress fracture, carpal tunnel syndrome, osteochondritis dissecans, gout, lupus, lyme disease, and dislocation.
There are many different causes and disorders that can result in elbow pain and these can affect either the inner or outer elbow. Knowing what to look for can help treat the issue before it gets worse so recognizing the signs will ensure you know when to seek the needed care from your doctor. The most common signs and symptoms include:
- Unusual sensations in the bone
- Inability to move freely
- Pins and needles feelings
- Popping sound when folding
The procedure / What to expect
Some patients may benefit from physical therapy or the use of braces or splints. Some patients may need assistive devices which can help reduce pain when the elbow joint is straightened which results in producing pain. Other causes of elbow pain may possibly prevented or reduced by quickly treating the underlying causes once found. For example treating cellulitis of the elbow may help prevent chronic elbow pain. Treating an autoimmune disease may help reduce or prevent recurring severe elbow pain. Abscesses of the elbow or also known as cellulitis usually requires drainage and antibiotics to treat elbow pain. Rheumatoid arthritis may require various treatments that may include corticosteroids, NSAIDs and possibly antirheumatic drugs. For the continuing of your healing process, your doctor may recommend an ultrasound, myofascial release massage or an electrical stimulation to ensure optimal healing. Elbow pain due to stress fractures or regular fractures are usually best treated by an orthopedic specialist and usually requires rest and often exterior support, such as a sling, cast, or brace. If you have had a severe trauma affect your elbow you may require surgical repair, which is usually fixed by an orthopedic surgeon.
Seeing your doctor as soon as you feel you have any of the symptoms listed above will help determine the proper course of treatment needed to help fix the pain you have to help stop it from progressing or causing more damage to the elbow.
How does it work
Your doctor will diagnose your elbow disorder through a number of different testing methods. Some of these methods may include CT scans, MTIs, x-rays, or EMGs. Your doctor may also decide to order a biopsy of your bursa fluid. Treatment will vary depending on your concluded elbow disorder and the symptoms you experience. Most elbow disorders will require a conservative treatment. If your symptoms do not improve, surgery is looked at as a last resort. Traditional treatment options typically includes immobilization, elbow padding, elevation, ice, rest, over-the-counter painkillers, bracing, steroid injections and physical therapy.
What happens if I don’t treat it?
To restore and maintain the flexibility of your elbow joint and its health, early treatment is vital. If the pain or condition is left untreated, it may result into many complications, some of which include:
- Chronic elbow pain
- A lasting fixed bend in the elbow also called contracture
- Limited range of motion
- Progressive arthritis
- Debilitating pain
How many treatments do I need
This will depend on the cause of the elbow pain, often 2 – 3 injections in the average amount.
When will I feel better
Elbow pain due to minor strains and sprains will most likely be ok if the joint is allowed to heal by not being strained and allowed to rest. If a patient has chronic elbow pain, the patient should take the extra time to rest and follow the treatment plan designed by their physician for them. Stress fractures and elbow routine fractures of bones can also heal and have a reasonably good outcome over time with the proper care and nurturing of the bone. Elbow joints that experience more severe damage from infection, trauma, autoimmune diseases, mat not repair itself correctly if not given the proper time and efforts to heal.
Always give your body the time to rest, especially after strenuous activities, exercises and playing sports. Elbow pain can be prevented through taking previous measures such as strengthening your arm, wrist, back and shoulder muscles before damaging your elbow. Strong muscles will help prevent injury to the elbow and will protect the areas from trauma and stress.