Elbow pain is a common occurrence among sports players. Injury, trauma, and many other health conditions may cause persistent pain in the elbows. In most cases, elbow pain is not a serious condition. However, it can be frustrating as it limits your elbow movement.
Golfers, tennis players, boxers, weight lifters, and baseball players often suffer from elbow pain due to trauma or overuse of an elbow. Elbow pain is also commonly experienced by people in professions where repeated hand movement is involved such as carpenters, painters, and knitters.
Elbow pain can be annoying and persistent. Elbow pain can be associated with other symptoms that can indicate the severity of trauma. These symptoms are as below:
- Stiffness of elbow joint
- Weakness in hands and wrists
- A feeling of numbness around elbow joint and hand
- Redness around the elbow joint
When to see a doctor?
Elbow pain may or may not indicate something serious. Therefore, it is best to see a doctor if you experience the following:
- Unexplained pain around your elbow joints or injury
- Pain does not improve and becomes more severe
- Pain even in resting position
- Redness and swelling in the affected area
- Deformed elbow
- Ligament tear
- Bone fracture
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What causes elbow pain?
Medial epicondylitis, commonly called little leaguer’s elbow and golfer’s elbow, affects the inner tendons in the elbow. The downward swing of a golf cluband the repetitive throwing motion used in baseball are said to be the common causes.
repetitive hand motion like swinging a hammer every day at work can also result in medial epicondylitis. This condition can cause pain along the inside of your elbow.
Also called student’s elbow, draftsman’s elbow and miner’s elbow, olecranon bursitis affects the bursae protecting the pointy bone of the elbow. Bursitis affects the bursae, the small sacs of fluid that help in protecting the joints.
Olecranon bursitis may be caused by:
- Medical conditions like arthritis
- Leaning your the elbow for a prolonged period of time
- A blow to the elbow
Lateral epicondylitis or lateral elbow tendinopathy is also commonly known as tennis elbow.
Tennis elbow affects the tendons on the outside of your elbow. Working in certain professions that uses same type of hand motion or playing racquet sports can cause tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis.
Professionals who commonly experience this condition include:
Symptoms like burning sensation or pain occur along the outside of the elbow. You may also experience problems with gripping.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a condition that affects your cartilage. Cartilage is a type of connective tissue found in your joints. OA can cause this tissue to wear down and become damaged. Symptoms may include:
- A locking sensation in the elbow
- Difficulty bending the elbow
- A grating sound during movement
Fracture or dislocation of the elbow
An injury to the elbow like a fall on an elbow or outstretched arm may cause dislocation or a fracture. Symptoms include:
- Visual changes like discoloration or swelling in the elbow
- Inability to move the joint
Ligament sprains and strains
Ligament problems may occur in any of the ligaments located in your elbow joint. Ligament sprains or strains could be the result of trauma or repeated stress.
Also called Panner’s disease, the osteochondritis dissecans occur when small pieces of bone and cartilage become dislodged in the elbow joint. This condition is often the result of a sports injury to the elbow and is most often seen in young men.
How do you prevent elbow pain?
Elbow pain can be prevented by taking steps , such as:
- Using proper sports techniques
- Using correct form
- Avoiding repeated movement of the specific muscle group
- Taking breaks during exercising
- Warming up before sports can prevent injury and stiffness of elbows
- Stretching before and after a workout
- Using padded protection or cushions for the elbow
- Strengthening the muscles around your elbow
- Avoiding activities that may trigger your elbow pain
- Starting your exercises slowly if you are new
- Maintaining your posture while exercising and throughout the day
How to Treat elbow pain?
Elbow pain can be managed with pain killers( do not over- consume painkillers , consult the doctor to find out the cause) and over-the-counter gels. A doctor may suggest casting in the case of a fracture. If you experience severe pain and injury, a doctor may also recommend surgical options based on the intensity of the injury.
In mild cases, you can treat elbow pain at home by referring to the following:
- Take plenty of rest to enhance the healing of sore muscles
- Increase intake of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and proteins
- Apply cold compresses to the affected area at least thrice a day
- Stretching and exercising may provide pain relief
- Regular icing for 20 minutes may help with sore muscles
- Keep your arm in an elevated position to reduce swelling
- Maintain healthy body weight
- Get physiotherapy for muscle strengthening and pain relief
Elbow pain is a common phenomenon among sportspersons, such as tennis, golf, and badminton players due to overuse of the elbow on an injury. However, it is not a major cause of concern and can largely be treated at home. If you experience other symptoms such as swelling, tenderness, and stiffness of the elbow, it is best to see a doctor. Most mild cases of elbow pain go away with at-home care. Severe cases can be managed with surgery, medication, and plenty of rest.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How long does it take to recover from an elbow injury?
Most mild forms of injuries take up to 2 weeks to heal completely. However, it may take longer if it is due to a ligament tear.
What foods are beneficial for elbow pain recovery?
Nutritious foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, olive oils, nuts and seeds, and colored fruits and vegetables help strengthen joints and muscles.
Is stiffness a sign of arthritis?
Though stiffness is a common sign of arthritis, it is best to get a diagnosis before starting any treatment. Temporary stiffness can also be triggered by repeated strain, tennis elbow, or fracture