If you’re involved in an accident and immediately feel a sharp pain in your elbow, seek immediate emergency care. More often, elbow pain comes on slowly. You first get tinges of discomfort, followed by stiffness, combined with severe pain when you bend your arm. As with any pain, it’s always best to visit your doctor at Century Medical and Dental Center at the first signs of pain — early detection can mean the difference between a brief period of rest … and surgery.
Your elbow is a joint that allows you to bend and straighten your arm, as well as to rotate your forearm. You probably don’t think about your elbow much since it’s not a weight-bearing joint. Once you experience elbow pain and restrictions, though, you suddenly realize how much you rely on your elbows.
Once you feel pain in your elbow, you may find that doing simple tasks — such as cooking, writing or getting dressed — are no longer automatic activities. Even brushing your teeth can cause you a great deal of discomfort. The best rated medical therapists at Century Medical and Dental Center, with their depth of expertise and the latest diagnostic techniques, determine what’s causing your discomfort and recommend the best elbow pain treatment options. A common and effective treatment modality to get you back to your normal daily routines involves exercises at Brooklyn’s best physical therapy clinic.
Symptoms of Elbow Pain
You can feel pain in your elbow joint or in the surrounding muscles and ligaments. You may experience it in different parts of the elbow and at varying levels of intensity. You may experience severe, sharp pain that’s constant, or it may feel more like a burning sensation that comes and goes. You may have pain along the inside or outside of your elbow joint.
Inner elbow pain, sometimes referred to as golfer’s elbow, comes on along the inner side of your elbow and extends along the inside of your forearm. Outer elbow pain, often called tennis elbow, is felt on the outer edge of your elbow. With any elbow pain, you may notice:
- Visible bruising or swelling at the tip of your elbow
- Pain that intensifies with movement
- Stiffness and difficulty moving your elbow through its normal range of motion
- Numbness or a tingling sensation in your fingers, common in what’s known as baseball elbow or more accurately — thrower’s injury
The Causes of Elbow Pain
Joint pain, including elbow pain, can be triggered by a variety of causes. The most common cause is inflammation of the tendons in the elbow, triggered by overuse, which is known as tendonitis. Other possible cases of elbow pain include:
- Fracture. A fracture is a break in one or more of the bones in your elbow. This can occur after a hard fall or a car accident. You may not have a protruding bone, but even hairline fractures can be excruciating in the associated pain.
- Dislocation. Dislocating your elbow joint happens when the parts of the elbow joint are pulled apart, usually because of trauma.
- Arthritis. A breakdown of cartilage in your elbow may be caused by rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. It usually occurs over time, so initially, you may only feel minor discomfort.
- Bursitis. Inflammation of the thin fluid-filled sac at the tip of the elbow is another possible cause of elbow pain.
- Tendon tears. Sudden injury of the elbow area can trigger tears in the strong fibrous cords that attach muscles to bone. Pain may radiate down your arm or up to your shoulder. It’s one of the most common reasons that pitchers seek baseball elbow pain treatment.
Diagnosing and Treating Elbow Pain
A thorough exam of the tissue to see if there’s any bruising or swelling, coupled with tests that determine the range of motion you have left, usually gives your doctor a good idea of the cause of your elbow pain. A good description of any trauma you underwent, what kind of sports you play or a set of imaging tests leads your physician to a diagnosis.
Treatment for elbow pain depends on accurately identifying the cause, which is why it’s best to contact Brooklyn clinicians for elbow pain treatment. Treatment usually starts with the least invasive options, such as suggestions to:
- Rest the joint and avoid activities that cause pain
- Apply ice at regular intervals and take anti-inflammatory medicine to reduce swelling
- Wear a brace that puts pressure on the forearm muscle to relieve tension in the tendons, often recommended for medial elbow pain treatment
- Participate in physical therapy exercises and stretches designed to restore your strength and flexibility
Surgical interventions are effective if you still have pain in your elbow after trying the less invasive treatments. Options include:
- Arthroscopy. Minimally invasive, this procedure is ideal for removing bone fragments and loose cartilage with tiny instruments, guided by a camera. Only small incisions are needed to reach the material.
- Ligament reconstruction. Damage to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) causes inner elbow pain and can be restored by this minimally invasive procedure. Tears can be stitched back together or reconstructed with tissue grafts. Athletes who undergo UCL reconstruction usually return to their previous playing levels.