It is because of the elbow joint that we can swing a golf club, lift a child, throw a ball, even drink a cup of coffee. In order to facilitate the variety of movements the arms make, the elbow joint is somewhat complex in its structure. It is a joint where the three bones of the arm to come together; two in the lower arm (the radius and ulna) and one in the upper arm (humerus). At the end of each bone is a small piece of cartilage, which absorbs the force of different motions. The bones are held together within the joint by a matrix of ligaments, and are attached to muscles via tendons. These are a lot of moving parts, which means there is a potential for something to go wrong.
In most cases, elbow pain is not an indication of a serious problem. However, pain can become severe enough to inhibit physical activity. For that reason, it is beneficial to obtain treatment for elbow pain that persists for more than a few weeks or that recurs.
Causes of Elbow Pain
There are several conditions that may affect the shoulder. Most of them are ultimately caused by overuse on the job or while engaging in sports or hobbies. Although far less common, elbow pain is sometimes related to osteoarthritis.
Common Elbow Conditions
Tendonitis of the elbow is often referred to as tennis elbow. This condition can be quite painful as tendons are not elastic. The fibrous nature of a tendon makes it susceptible to inflammation and tiny tears when overused. Despite the term tennis elbow, tendonitis of the elbow joint is not reserved only for athletes. Any overuse of the arm and wrist could result in elbow pain. Usually, this type of tendonitis causes pain on the outside of the elbow, where the tendons of the forearm muscles affix to the outer part of the joint. As inflammation worsens, pain may begin to radiate down the forearm into the wrist. Grip weakness may also develop.
Initially, rest and ice may be recommended for tennis elbow. However, recovery may be maximized with conservative intervention such as acupuncture or physical therapy. Working with a physical therapist, it is possible to learn how to manipulate movements in order to reduce further stress on the tendons. Physical therapy also seeks to strengthen and stretch the muscles around the elbow joint to facilitate optimal function.
Around the muscles and bones of joints are small sacs called bursae. These sacs contain fluid that enable them to provide cushioning to the bony structures of the joints in the body. There are several bursae around the elbow that may become inflamed in the event of overuse of the joint or the forearm. Sports medicine modalities, as well as physical therapy exercises, are often recommended for bursitis. Custom treatments are focused on preventing future flare-ups.
It is often believed that a broken arm would manifest in obvious symptoms. This isn’t always true. A broken bone or fracture in the arm or bone of the elbow may cause moderate pain but no clear deformity. If pain and swelling do not improve, or if pain in the elbow or arm inhibits you from performing normal motions, obtain a diagnostic evaluation to rule out a break.
Casting is the customary course of treatment for a broken arm, unless severe; then surgery may be necessary. Following this casting protocol, it is necessary to rehabilitate the muscles that have been unused for the weeks of immobilization. Physical therapy exercises are tailored to individual need to improve motion and flexibility within the joint.
The elbow joint is the point of connection for the bone of the upper arm and the bones of the lower arm. If these bones are forced out of their normal position, we refer to it as a dislocation. If such an injury occurs, prompt medical attention is necessary to reduce pain and reposition the bones appropriately. After an elbow dislocation has been corrected, rehabilitation in the form of physical therapy exercises may be advisable.
Elbow pain should not go undiagnosed or untreated. Our experienced staff is proud to offer a variety of non-surgical treatments for elbow pain in our offices throughout Monmouth County, NJ. For more information or to schedule your appointment with us, Contact Us Today.