Elbow joint comprises of three bones: the humerus (upper arm), the radius and the ulna in the forearm. The prominent bony part at the tip behind the elbow is called the Olecranon process. Elbow pain is a common complaint and there are many common causes for this problem.
- Acute and severe pain and tenderness
- Swelling around the elbow
- Radiation of pain down the forearm up to the wrist
- Difficulty in bending and lifting the arm
- Difficulty in gripping activities
- Wrist may feel weak at times
- In chronic conditions, it may lead to morning stiffness
Causes and contributing factors vary, but commonly they are related to repetitive injury as a result of one or more of the following:
- Poor sports/exercise technique
- Wrong grip size of racquet for racquet games
- Occupational tasks involving repetitive movements of the wrist and hands
- Injury to the elbow or minor tears of the tendon
TENDINITIS: Repeated elbow and wrist activities leading to overuse and stress to the muscles and tendons may lead to elbow pain. E.g.: Gardening, using computer mouse etc.
Tennis Elbow or Lateral Epicondylitis – The pain usually occurs on the outer part of the elbow joint. This usually occurs due to the overuse of forearm muscles while doing activities like gripping, extension of wrist, elbow – typically the backhand stroke in Tennis
Golfer’s Elbow or Medial Epicondylytis – The pain usually occurs on the inner part of the elbow joint. This usually occurs with activities like repeated gripping, flexion of wrist and elbow – typically similar to Gold Swing.
Olecrenon Bursitis – This is a local inflammation behind the elbow that usually occurs after an injury, trauma or prolonged resting of the elbow on a hard surface. This may also occur in systemic conditions such as in Gout or Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Sprains – Sprains occur due to overstretching or tearing of the ligaments that stabilise the elbow joint. It usually occurs when there is a direct blow or twist on the joint. This may result in pain, stiffness and instability of the joint.
Your physiotherapist may try various techniques to reduce the inflammation and pain. These may include:
Radial Shock Wave Therapy: There is an increased delivery of nutrients to the affected area which increases the blood vessel formation and initiates the healing response
Laser Therapy: Low level lasers cause vaso-dilatation, bringing in more oxygen to the tissue. This reduces the inflammation and promotes healing. There are no side effects.
Ultrasound Therapy: Decreases inflammation and increases the blood supply thereby promoting tissue repair
Interferential Therapy: Stimulates the muscle and nerve fibres and reduces pain and inflammation
Cryotherapy: Use of ice reduces pain and inflammation
Exercise Therapy: Soft tissues release techniques, frictional massage and stretching promotes healing and recovery
Elbow Guard or Tape: To support the tendons, thereby reducing the stress on them to encourage healing
- Regular stretching as advised by the physiotherapist
- Progressive strengthening exercises using Omni bands or weights to increase the strength of gripping and arm muscles
- Using a proper Racquet designed to reduce the effects of repeated stress
- Resting the arm or reducing repetitive movements
- Proper positioning of hand when working with the computer keyboard or mouse
- Bracing or taping the elbow during activities