Elbow pain is commonly a result of either ‘tennis elbow’ (lateral epicondylitis) or ‘golfers elbow’ (medial epicondylitis) which are caused by overuse of the elbow and wrist. Other traumatic events can strain or rupture ligaments, aggravate bursae, fracture bony prominences or entrap nerves leading to inflammation and restricted movements.
Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)
Lateral epicondylitis is commonly known as tennis elbow. This condition is essentially tendonitis in the outside part of the elbow. Tendonitis is inflammation of a tendon. A tendon is a group of cord-like fibers that attach a muscle to a bone. Tendons can become irritated either through overuse or trauma. Lateral epicondylitis usually occurs from returning to sporting activities too fast and vigorously. Alternatively, it may occur from excessive overuse such as the constant use of a drill or screwdriver. Trauma, such as hitting or striking the elbow, can also cause “tennis elbow” or lateral epicondylitis.
Pain is the primary symptom. It will be located in the the outside part of the elbow, either on the bony part or in the muscle areas above and below the bony area. Pain usually begins slowly and increases over several weeks. The discomfort is commonly described as hot or burning, and the areas may actually feel warm or be red. Swelling may also be present. In more severe cases, the pain may be present at all times and begin to expand away from the area of initial pain. If the tendonitis has not become excessive, pain may be felt only during use.
Activities that are problematic are usually associated with extending the wrist, turning the palm upward or straightening the elbow. In severe cases, however, any movement of the wrist and elbow may be difficult.
Golfers elbow presents as pain on the inside of the elbow, and is caused by overuse of the forearm muscles involved in gripping, flexing the wrist and flexing the elbow (golf swing).
- Elbow Pain on the outside or inside of the elbow, possibly radiating down the forearm to the wrist.
- Elbow Pain with lifting or bending the arm, gripping or activities such as lifting a cup, opening a door or turning a tap.
- Weakness in the wrist.
- Difficulty straightening the arm.
- Occasionally swelling around the elbow.
- Physiotherapy treatment may include ice and anti-inflammatory measures to decrease pain and swelling, soft tissue release techniques to the forearm muscles, strengthening exercises (particularly eccentric exercises) to stimulate healing and promote recovery.
- Other physiotherapy techniques such as mobilisations, taping, stretching, ultrasound and nerve stretches may also be required.
- An elbow strap for tennis/golfers elbow can be very helpful to offload the tendon attachment and allow healing to occur. You should rest from any aggravating activities until the pain settles, if possible.
Elbow pain is a very common injury that is seen on a day to day basis by Fine Form Physiotherapists, please call to make an appointment with your physiotherapist to have your elbow pain accurately diagnosed and treated.