Finding Relief for Acute and Chronic Elbow Pain
The elbow is one of the most highly utilized joints in the human body. Think about it for a moment…you use your elbow and practically everything that you do. It is the joint that enables you to brush your teeth in the morning to more complicated actions such as swinging a tennis racket.
The elbow itself is comprised of three main bones: the ulna, the radius, and the humerus. The ends of the bones are covered in cartilage, which is what allows the elbow to bend smoothly and absorb shock. Additionally, all three bones are held together with a series of ligaments that form the joint capsule, which is a fluid-filled sac that surrounds the elbow and keeps it lubricated.
Considering the amount of daily usage that the elbow gets, you can imagine how difficult it may be to deal with elbow pain or discomfort. Although elbow pain only affects about 3% of the population, it is a pain that can drastically affect your quality of life.
What Causes Elbow Pain?
The majority of cases involving elbow pain are due to overuse injuries. Two big examples of that are tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow. Both sports require a repeated swinging motion that can slowly cause damage to the elbow joint by overworking the tendons. However, it’s not just people who are active in sports that are susceptible to this condition. Plumbers, carpenters, and painters can all develop lateral elbow pain from repetitive motion.
Another common cause of elbow pain is through injury. For instance, a broken arm, dislocated elbow, or stress fracture can cause chronic elbow pain. The elbow is a complicated system, so there’s always a chance that an injury doesn’t heal quite right and requires additional treatment.
Other conditions that cause elbow pain include:
• Bursitis: A condition in which the fluid-filled sacs surrounding the joint are inflamed.
• Osteoarthritis: A condition in which the cartilage surrounding a joint wears down, reducing cushion.
• Rheumatoid arthritis: A condition that affects the lining of the joints.
• Tendinitis: A condition that causes inflammation or irritation of the tendons surrounding a joint.
How to Treat Elbow Pain
If you are experiencing elbow pain – specifically, due to an overuse injury – there are a few at-home methods that you can use. Your first order of business should be to protect your elbow from further injury and to rest the joint as much as possible.
If you are experiencing tennis elbow, then it’s in your best interest to take an extended break from the game. Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are not the types of injuries that you can play through, so don’t try to tough it out. You may end up making the injury worse.
Two other treatments you can use are ice packs and compression bandages. For ice therapy, simply place an ice pack on your elbow for up to 20 minutes at a time (repeat as needed). It should help with the pain and reduce swelling. Compression bandages are also effective in helping reduce swelling and can be left on throughout the day.
Finally, if you find that elbow pain levels aren’t decreasing with the previously mentioned methods, you can use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for temporary pain relief. This is especially helpful for those who experience pain at night and are having trouble sleeping.
When to See an Orthopedic Doctor for Elbow Pain
If you’re still experiencing elbow pain after utilizing at-home treatment methods, then it may be time for you to schedule an appointment with the orthopedic doctor. Here are some symptoms to look for:
• You’re experiencing severe pain, even when the joint is not actively in use
• There is severe swelling and/or bruising around the joint
• You’re having mobility issues that don’t allow you to move the joint normally
• There is a deformity or protruding bone
Most cases of lateral elbow pain start to resolve themselves after a day or two of rest and at-home treatment. However, an elbow that is truly injured will be far more obvious due to the difference in pain level, swelling, and other symptoms.
Finding an Orthopedic Doctor in Your Area
If you are suffering from elbow pain, pain in the neck and/or spine, or other types of joint pain, you should reach out to an orthopedic doctor immediately. During your first appointment, they will examine the area and be able to provide you with a comprehensive treatment plan that’s specific to your injury.
Fortunately, finding an orthopedic doctor in your area is easy. Simply search the phrase “orthopedic doctor” and that should bring up numerous clinics in your area that provide this service.