Elbow pain can be associated with a specific injury but is often the result of repetitive stress motions, such as constantly swinging a tennis racket or working day after day at a computer station. However, the elbow tends to do a better job of withstanding the daily grind and wear and tear, which means treating and rehabilitating elbow pain with non-surgical techniques represents the best approach.
Symptoms of Elbow Pain
Joint pain experienced at the elbow as a result of repetitive stress typically starts as an intermittent dull aching sensation that if not treated can develop into a constant pain. The symptoms become more noticeable when you feel sharp pain in the elbow by making a clenched fist and/or opening the fingers on the same side of the body. Eventually, you may develop a weak grip with pain and difficulty trying to hold objects. Numbness and tingling in the ring finger and little finger are common symptoms of ulnar nerve entrapment.
Elbow Joint Pain Causes
On an ordinary day the elbow moves back and forth frequently during normal daily tasks. Add an active lifestyle, and the tendons connecting the muscles can become inflamed causing shooting pain throughout the elbow, as well as up and down the arm. Epicondylitis is an injury that is directly related to the overuse of the afflicted elbow and is one of the most common causes of elbow pain. Bursitis is another common cause of elbow pain and is produced by inflammation in a fluid filled sac called a bursae. Osteoarthritis may develop over time in the elbow joint, particularly if the area has been subject to injury and repetitive stress without receiving proper treatment. Ulnar nerve entrapment also known as cubital tunnel syndrome can develop as a result of prior fracture or dislocation of the elbow, bone spurs or arthritis of the elbow, repetitive or prolonged activities that require the elbow to be bent or flexed.
Diagnosis: When you should see a doctor for elbow pain?
Any pain that lasts longer than one week or occurs every so often without a specific injury should be further evaluated. Your doctor will conduct an examination of the elbow, and if warranted, will evaluate the neck and shoulder to determine whether muscle weakness is contributing to your specific condition. After a comprehensive health history an examination is performed and involves measuring range of motion at the elbow, measuring strength, and stressing soft tissues including ligaments and tendons. Another important measure to evaluate is whether grip strength has been compromised, or whether numbness in the hand or arm is present. If this is the case, is it due to a herniated disc in the neck, ulnar nerve entrapment at the elbow, median nerve entrapment at the wrist, or some other type of entrapment. The next step in the diagnostic process is to perform one or more tests to detect damage to the muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves which may include ultrasound, blood tests, x-ray, MRI or electromyography (EMG).
Maintaining strength and flexibility of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments is the key to preventing pain in the elbow. If you spend all day at a desk working, especially if you use a computer, having a good ergonomic set up and avoiding long sessions when both elbows are exposed to repetitive motions will be extremely helpful in preventing the onset of pain that could transition into a more severe condition. If you enjoy playing sports such as tennis or golf, regular stretching is very important to avoid developing tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) or golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis), which could keep you sidelined indefinitely.
- Elbow flexion stretch
- Elbow extension stretch
Improving and maintaining grip strength
- Eccentric wrist flexion and extension
If you experience an injury or an acute onset of pain make sure you apply ice as quickly as possible to limit swelling and edema. Rest from the activity and if the pain persists you should seek professional treatment.
- Ice massage of the elbow
- Elbow massage using a lacrosse ball
Elbow Pain Relief in Mesa, AZ
At The Center for Total Back Care, we believe that early detection and treatment of elbow pain is important to not only keep you active, but to avoid chronic, long-term issues with an elbow and the resultant degenerative and soft tissue changes that occur over time, as well as to avoid surgery. One of the best ways to quickly eliminate persistent pain associated with lateral epicondylitis or medial epicondylitis in even the most difficult cases is with dry needling. This allows our patients to better tolerate the rehabilitation process allowing you to return to a normal active and pain free lifestyle quickly and effectively. In addition to promoting non-surgical techniques to eliminate elbow pain, we can also help patients regain full strength and movement following a surgical procedure. Don’t delay, call us today at (480) 633-8293 to schedule a consultation and evaluation.