Elbow pain is a discomfort or type of pain that occurs in the joint in the elbow of the arm.
The elbow can be found in the middle part of the arm. It functions to allow a person to rotate the forearm and forward and backward movements. The elbow has two major muscles. The biceps is used to flex the elbow while the triceps is for extension. The elbow from time to time may experience trauma that leads to injury causing elbow pain. Diseases and disorders also occur that may affect the elbow joint.
Elbow injury is commonly a result of the repetitive use of the joint and sports injury. In mild cases of pain, it may be caused by a wear and tear on the joint of the elbow. Severe cases of pain are caused by bone fractures. Furthermore, although rare, the pain may be caused by growths of tumors or cysts, or infection that occurs in the elbow.
Treatment of elbow pain differs from one person to another depending on the underlying cause. In mild cases of pain, the usual treatment regimen is followed. This includes: rest, cold compresses, and mild pain medications. However, severe causes of pain may require strong pain medications, therapy, and surgery.
Causes of Elbow Pain
There are different causes of elbow pain. Some may be common while some are not. It is essential to accurately diagnose the exact cause of pain. This is to ensure that treatment is appropriate treatment is being rendered. A common cause of pain in the elbow is lateral epicondylitis otherwise known as tennis elbow. The lateral epicondyle is the elbow’s bony portion wherein tendons are found that attaches the forearm’s muscles. This lateral epicondylebecomes inflamed because of an injury. This may be brought by repetitive motions such as: hitting a tennis ball using a backhand play, washing windows, and using a manual screwdriver.
Lateral epicondylitis later on leads to tendon inflammation causing pain on the outside portion of the elbow. It is usually accompanied by swelling, local tenderness, and warmth. Since the inner joint remains unaffected, the elbow’s full range of motion is still maintained. Activities that require repeated motions involving the tendon may increase the pain.
Medial epicondylitis or golfer’s elbow is the inflammation at an area in the inner elbow where tendons that attach the forearm to the bony part are found. The tendon may become inflamed because of injuries made by repetitive motions, commonly by golf swings. This disease is characterized by tenderness and pain in the inner elbow. The elbow’s range of motion is not affected by this disease because the inner joint is undamaged. Although activities that require straining or twisting the tendons on the forearm can cause pain and make the condition worse.
Elbow pain is also caused by fractures and sprains. Fractures are common to children and the elderly. Like any other type of fracture, this can cause extreme pain in the affected part. Diagnosis for this disorder is done through an x-ray. On the other hand, a sprain is because of a tear or stretch in the ligament surrounding the elbow. It might occur in an event that requires the elbow to become hyperextended. The injury’s severity depends on the number of affected ligaments.
Diagnosis of Elbow Pain
Diagnosis of elbow pain is important because it will be the basis for treatment. The patient may be required to undergo a series of tests before confirming the cause. Diagnosis starts with a physical examination. The physician may first inspect the elbow for any deformity or instability. Its range of motion would also be tested. For a more reliable diagnosis, it is better to consult an orthopedic doctor. The physician may also conduct laboratory exams such as an x-ray to check for deformities in the bone. Blood tests may also be needed as they may aid in determining the presence of infection or inflammation.
Treatment of Elbow Pain
Elbow pain treatment depends mainly on the cause of the pain. Therefore, accurate diagnosis of the problem is important when coming up with a treatment plan. For accurate diagnosis, it is recommended to consult a physician and undergo a series of examination and laboratory tests. In cases of pain, first and foremost, it is important to rest on the affected area to allow the inflammation to subside but avoid immobilizing for long periods as it may lead to a stiff joint. Cold compresses may also relieve the pain and decrease inflammation. Certain medications such as ibuprofen for pain, and corticosteroids or NSAIDs can be used to decrease inflammation. An elbow band may also be utilized to reduce pain and prevent further injury. Physical therapists may also be required to provide the patient the necessary exercise to strengthen and stretch the muscles. It is essential to limit activities requiring the use of elbow repetitively.