Elbow pain: what it can be and what to do


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Elbow pain is a very common symptom in people who practice body building, especially after doing a workout that involves strengthening of the triceps. However, it can also affect people who do intense sports with arms, such as cross fit, tennis or golf.

Usually the elbow pain is never a sign of a serious problem. Nevertheless it can cause great discomfort because the elbow is a joint that is use when doing almost movements of the arm and hand.

Elbow pain can be cured, but in most cases, it is necessary to consult with an orthopaedist or a general practitioner who will do proper treatment that may include medications and physiotherapy.

Main causes of elbow pain

The main causes of elbow [pain are tendinitis, bursitis or arthritis. However there are other causes that are much rarer, such as arm fracture or ulnar compression. These can lead to the onset off pain in the elbow.

Below are some of the other causes of elbow pain:

1. Epicondylitis

This is an inflammation of the tendons of the elbow, and it can either be lateral or medial.If it affects only theinner part of the elbow, it is refered to s golfer’s elbow and when it affects the lateral part of the elbow it is refered to as the tennis player’s elbow.

Epicondylitis causes pain whenever one makes movements with the arm, or when using a mouse on the computer. It also causes hypersensitivity when touching the the region on the elbow. The pain usually worsens when the person tries to stretch their arm and it worsens when they try to flex their arm. It mostly arises after playing sports or after body building activities, such as triceps.

What to do: To relive elbow pain, it is ideal to take some rest then put ice packs on the affected region. Medication sthat can be taken include paracetamol as well as undergoing physiotherapy.

2. Bursitis at the elbow

This is an inflammation of the tissue that function as the ”buffer” of the joint. The pain caused by this inflammation affects the back of the elbow and it arises when the it is placed on hard surfaces such as tables. This type of pain is most common in students, people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis or gout.

What to do:  To cure elbow pain, it is necessary to take rest and apply a cold compress on the affected region. One should also take anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen, as prescribed the doctor. It may also be important to undergo physiotherapy.

3. Arthritis in the elbow

This is wear and inflammation of the joint in the elbow that comes with pain and swelling in the affected region. It is more common in elderly patients.

What to do: Treatment of this elbow pain should be done by an orthopaedist or a general practitioner and it also includes the use of anti-inflammatory drugs such as Naproxen as well as undergoing physiotherapy.

4. Arm fracture

This arises after strong impacts on the elbow such caused by accidents, falls or blows that break the region of the bone near the elbow. It may also affect the arm or forearm.

What to do: This type of pain does not usually reduce wit the use of analgesic remedies of usage of a compress. Therefore, in case of suspicion, one should go to the hospital for immobilization so as to reduce the pain.

5. Ulnar nerve compression

This compression is more common after undergoing orthopaedic surgeries. It results to symptoms such as tingling if the arm, ring or pinky finger, lack of muscle strength. The pain is felt during ,movements that involve bending or opening of these fingers.

What to do: This condition should be treated by an orthopaedist through physiotherapy or surgery so as to reposition the nerve, which will all depend on the severity of the situation.

6. Synovial plica

The synovial plica normal fold that is found in the capsule that forms the elbow joint. When it increases in thickness, it can result to pain in the region behind the elbow. The pain can be heard in snaps or when bending or stretching the arm with the hand facing down. Magnetic resonance imaging is the only examination that can show the presence of an increased plica, which should not be larger than 3mm.

What to do: In addition to using ointments that have anti-inflammatory effect, physiotherapy may also be recommended to relieve the pain.

When to seek medical

It is advisable to seek medical attention whenever the elbow suddenly rises as well as if the chest tightens or when:

  • Pain arises accompanied by fever
  • Swelling and pain increases constantly
  • Pain arises even when you are not using the arm
  • The pain does not pass even after taking analgesics and after taking a rest

In such cases, it is ideal to consult an orthopaedist who will perform examinations to diagnose the real cause of the problem and then recommend the appropriate treatment.


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