Common Causes of Elbow Pain
Elbow Tendonitis (Tennis Elbow and Golfer's Elbow) Overview
What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a type of elbow tendonitis caused by overuse of the lower arm's extensor muscles. Such overuse can create tiny pain tears in the tendons that are used to extend the arm. These tears can cause pain, inflammation, sensitivity, and discomfort where the tendon attaches to the outside of the elbow. In some cases, this pain may radiate out into the forearm and wrist. In extreme cases, the sufferer may lose some amount of grip in their hand, which can make picking up objects and other actions that require fine motor skills painful and difficult.
As its namesake infers, this condition is commonly caused by playing racquet sports such as tennis or racquetball, but that is not the only cause. It can also be caused by other repetitive motions, such as those made when playing a string instrument, painting, using hand tools, doing dental work, or pulling weeds. Like all pain, the sensations caused by this condition are a warning signal that means the user should stop doing what they are doing.
What is Golfer's Elbow?
Golfer's elbow, or medial epicondylitis, is very similar to tennis elbow, except that the injured muscles are in a different location. They are instead located on the inside of the elbow instead of the outside of the elbow.
How is Elbow Tendonitis Treated?
Those who have elbow tendonitis should avoid the movement that first created the pain. Without rest, the injury will not heal and will, in fact, worsen. Other first steps include the use of Cold Therapy and anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, to reduce swelling and pain. Elbow tendonitis braces, especially compression sleeves and bands, are helpful for pain and swelling. If pain persists after these at-home treatment options are tried, if pain interferes with daily activities, or if a lump appears on the arm, the injured will want to ask a doctor about the next steps. These will likely include an elbow brace, such as those on this page, and may also include physical therapy, steroid injections, or ultrasound therapy. In rare cases, surgery may be necessary.
Ulnar Nerve Entrapment (Cubital Tunnel Syndrome) Overview
What is Ulnar Nerve Entrapment?
Ulnar Nerve Entrapment results from a pinching of the ulnar nerve (also known as the funny bone), which may cause pain, tingling, numbness, tenderness, and weakness in the hand (especially in the palm and ring and pinky fingers). Sufferers may also experience elbow joint sensitivity and sensitivity to cold in the affected areas. It is often caused by the placement of prolonged pressure on the ulnar nerve or by stretching it for too long. In some cases, this can even cause the nerve to shift out of place.
How is Ulnar Nerve Entrapment Treated?
First steps include the use of Pain Relievers, such as anti-inflammatory medications and aspirin, elbow immobilization via a splint, and strengthening exercises. Doctors will often recommend physical therapy. If these treatments do not work, a doctor may recommend elbow or wrist surgery, depending on where compression is found.
One-Time Elbow Injuries
What is a One-Time Injury?
One-time elbow injuries include strains, sprains, fractures, and dislocations. Strains and sprains are typically caused by overuse or misuse of the elbow joint. Fractures and dislocations tend to happen due to sudden, blunt force or trauma, such that which may occur during a car accident, when hit during contact sport play, or when a person has to catch themselves when they fall.
How are One-Time Injuries Treated?
Ice and rest are the first steps for strain and sprain care. In addition, slings, splints, and compression sleeves for elbow are essential tools for preventing the arm from moving so it can heal. Elbow elevation can also help the injury heal. In cases of intense pain, bruising, swelling, or difficulty bending the arm, the injured party should see a doctor. They should also contact a physician if pain and swelling get worse or don't go away. Surgery may be necessary in cases of severe ligament tear.
If the elbow is fractured or dislocated, the injured party should be taken to the emergency room immediately. Here the doctor will take X-rays. In case of a fracture, the doctor will administer any needed pain medications and then realign the bones. Both fractures and dislocations require splints or slings for stabilization and healing. In some cases of nerve or ligament damage or a broken bone, surgery may be necessary.
Elbow Brace Types and What They Do
Elbow sleeves are designed to be pulled up and over the elbow to provide light compression and restriction of motion to ease inflammation, swelling, and pain. They typically also have a protective pad at the elbow area. These sleeves are often a great option for use as an elbow tendinitis, radial tunnel syndrome, or cubital tunnel syndrome brace. One such example is the best-selling PROCARE Elastic Elbow Support by DJO Global.
These straps are a great option for bursitis and tendonitis. They are a great help to those with repetitive motion injuries and work great as tennis and golfer's elbow braces. These bands are fitted below the elbow to provide forearm compression, which in turn relieves pain. Unlike sleeves, these items are typically adjustable. Those in search of such an item may be interested in the Tennis Elbow Strap Band It that provides 30 durometer thermal viscoelastic conforming compression.
Tennis Elbow Braces
Tennis elbow straps and braces are built specifically for tennis elbow injuries, aka lateral epicondylitis injury. These come in both sleeve and elbow band forms. One popular example of this brace type is the ProCare Tennis Elbow Support Brace by DJO Global. These braces are perfect for injuries that result not just from playing sports, but also those that result from other activities that require repetitive movements, such as playing a string instrument or painting homes.
Orthopedic devices are used for more severe injuries that require stabilization, reduced range of motion, and in some cases total immobilization. This category includes immobilizers, braces, sleeves, splints, wraps, slings, and pads. Such devices are a must for fractures, dislocations, and recovery from surgery. Stabilization of injuries and surgical sites allow the injured area to heal faster. Vitality Medical offers a wide array of these products above.
Restriction and Hinged Braces
Hinged braces, such as the Swede-O Thermal Vent Elbow Brace, allow the user some elbow range of motion, but only to the extent that is safe for the patient. They do not allow the elbow to extend back past 0 and are often adjustable.
Immobilization braces restrict range of motion completely. These braces are typically required in the first phase of treatment post trauma or surgery.
Complementary Treatments for Elbow Pain or Injury
- DJ Orthopedics Arm Elevation Pillow: A foam arm elevation pillow for ultimate arm support, swelling reduction, and arm injury healing.
- Health Star Enteric Coated Aspirin: Adult low strength, 81 milligram aspirin. This product is eteric-coated and bottles can be purchased in 120 and 300 pill quantities.
- Hyperice Ice Elbow Compression Device: A cold compression therapy wrap device. This item can also be purchased for shoulder, knee, ankle, shin, or back injuries.
- McKesson Cold Compress Instant: A cold compress that comes in 4 x 6, 5 x 7, and 6 x 9 inch sizes and can be purchased individually or in bulk. Ice is helpful for any elbow injury type and helps reduce swelling and pain.
- Sunmark Children's Ibuprofen: An oral suspension of children's version of ibuprofen. This product comes in berry, grape and bubblegum flavors.
- Sunmark Adult Ibuprofen: 200 mg ibuprofen tablets that can be purchased in 100 or 1,000 milligram quantities. Ibuprofen is great for pain relief and inflammation reduction.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do compression sleeves help with tennis elbow?
Yes, compression helps relieve pain and inflammation from tennis elbow.
Is heat or ice better for tennis elbow and other elbow injuries?
Ice is generally preferred for such injuries.
When should you see a doctor for elbow pain?
If the injured party has fractured or dislocated their elbow, they should be taken to the emergency room immediately. For lesser injuries, the injured party should see a doctor if ice and rest are not enough to help heal the injury and if swelling and redness persists. They should see a doctor in cases of bruising, swelling, intense pain, or difficulty bending the elbow.
What are the symptoms of ulnar nerve damage?
Symptoms include tingling and numbness in the pinky and ring finger, weakened hand grip, reduced finger coordination, and, in extreme cases, muscle wasting.
What kind of brace is best for elbow tendonitis or tennis elbow?
Neoprene elbow sleeves, such as the Safe-T-Sport Elbow Sleeve, are common solutions for tennis elbow and other types of elbow tendonitis.