Athletes are not the only ones to experience elbow problems. Many of the repetitive motions used in everyday activities can result in tennis elbow, also called lateral epicondylitis, an inflammation of the tendons that makes every move extremely painful. Hours spent typing on a computer keyboard or moving around a mouse can be as damaging as the repetitive swinging of a tennis racquet. Any profession that requires repeated hand motions, including dentistry, carpentry and house painting, can cause tennis elbow. The shoulder is also susceptible to injury from wear and tear
But injury to the elbow does not always stem from overuse and getting older. Traumatic injury that is caused by a fall, car accident, heavy lifting and the like occurs frequently, and can result in a separated or fractured elbow. Pain, swelling and bruising, and limited movement are all symptoms of traumatic injuries, which should always be evaluated by a medical professional as quickly as possible.
Types of Elbow Injuries
- Golfer's elbow (medial epicondylitis)
- Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
- Biceps tendon rupture
Medial epicondylitis, more commonly known as Golfer's Elbow, is a form of tendonitis that manifests on the inner side of the elbow. It is caused by the tendon in the forearm being stressed from constant use, but is not restricted to golfers; pitchers and even those not involved in sports can develop golfer's elbow.
Golfer's elbow is generally treated using analgesics and anti-inflammatory medication, as well as resting the elbow. However, professional athletes suffering from this condition may opt for more immediate relief in the form of glucocorticoid injections so as not to miss important career events. This treatment is risky because of the close proximity of the ulnar nerve to the affected area, damage to which could have severe ramifications.
Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is an elbow injury that occurs as a result of overuse, most commonly from playing tennis. The pain associated with this condition affects the lateral epicondyle, the area where the forearms' tendons connect with the bony outer portion of the elbow. While tennis elbow typically affects adults aged 30 to 50, anyone who continually stresses their wrists is at a higher risk of developing this condition.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
The symptoms of tennis elbow affect the inside of the elbow, and may include some of the following:
- Forearm weakness
- Pain when the wrist is extended
- Pain during various activities, such as turning a doorknob
- Pain that spreads from the outside of the elbow into the forearm and wrist
Diagnosing Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow is usually diagnosed by examining the affected elbow and reviewing the patient's medical history. To assess pain, pressure may be applied to the elbow. In some cases, x-rays may be done to rule out other conditions that may be responsible for causing elbow pain.
Treatment for Tennis Elbow
In many cases, tennis elbow heals on its own within two years. Initial pain can often be managed with rest, ice and over-the-counter painkillers. Cases that don't respond to the aforementioned measures may require additional treatment, in the form of exercises, orthotics, or corticosteroids. Severe, persistent cases of tennis elbow may require surgery; however, surgery is only necessary for about ten percent of those suffering from tennis elbow. Your doctor will develop a customized treatment plan based on your individual condition.
The biceps tendon attaches muscles to the shoulder in two separate places and helps bend the elbow and rotate the forearm. Injury to the tendon can occur as a result of age, inactivity or over-activity, and can result in inflammation or a partial or complete tear. These injuries can cause severe pain, bruising and weakness.
Treatment for biceps tendon injuries may only require rest and anti-inflammatory medications, but more severe cases may require surgery. Surgical treatment depends on the type and severity of the condition. Most of these procedures can be performed through arthroscopy to reduce incision size and recovery time. Theses surgeries can include simply shaving away the torn fibers, removing the torn tendon stump and reattaching the remaining tendon (tenodesis), or completely reattaching torn tendons with screws and sutures.
The elbow bone, also called the olecranon, is a relatively vulnerable part of the body. This appendage is not protected by muscle or fat and yet it contains one of the most important joints in the human body. If the bone is broken, the intense pain suffered will usually drive the victim to the emergency room. There the doctor determines through examination and X-Rays whether the bone must be surgically treated.
Surgery is usually recommended if the broken elbow interferes with the triceps muscle (which inserts into it) function or if the broken part of the bone is visible and the fracture is "open". The surgery resets the bone fragments into the correct places, removes crushed pieces that cannot be repaired, and allows the surgeon to affix the bones so that proper healing will ensue.