Elbow pain

Causes | Diagnosis | Treatment

Elbow pain usually isn’t serious, but because the elbow is one of the most used joints in the body, elbow pain can affect a person’s everyday activities.  Because the elbow is a complex joint that allows you to extend and flex your forearm as well as rotate your forearm and hand. Because most movements are a combination of these actions, it may sometimes be difficult to know what brings on the pain.

What Causes Elbow Pain?

Elbow pain can be caused by a number of things.  One of the most common causes in adults is tendinitis.  This is the inflammation and injury to the tendons, which are the soft tissues that attach the muscle to the bone.  People who play sports that use a lot of upper body and arm movement such as tennis, golf, baseball and racquet ball are more likely to suffer from tendinitis.  Simple activities such as gardening can also attribute to tendinitis.

Other common causes include:

  • Bursitis
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sprains and strains
  • Dislocation
  • Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
  • Golfer’s elbow
  • Ligament sprains and tears
  • Stress fractures
  • Nerve impingement
  • Infection
  • Overuse

Diagnosing Elbow Pain

Because there are so many variables that could be causing your shoulder pain, it is important to get your pain accurately diagnosed.  Getting a general health history is an important part of accurate diagnosis especially if you have any recent injuries.   A physical exam will be done to try to pinpoint the location of the pain, determine if there is swelling as well as indications the joint may be damaged.  Depending on the findings during the physical exam, your doctor may order diagnostic imaging test such as ultrasound, MRI, X-rays, CT scan, etc. to confirm the diagnosis and rule out any underlying conditions.

Treating Elbow Pain

The treatment of elbow pain may vary depending on the cause of the pain and any underlying conditions.  Our experts at SCU will evaluate the best treatment options and will educate our patients so they can make an informed decision and play a role in the treatment process.  Treatment options available at SCU include:

  • Acupuncture – clinical studies have shown acupuncture to be effective in treating elbow pain associated with arthritic conditions as well as tendinitis, and may stimulate healing and decrease pain from injuries.
  • Chiropractic Care – chiropractic techniques and manipulation to affected joints can increase mobility and relieve pain.  Therapeutic exercise is almost always prescribed.
  • Physical Therapy Modalities/Procedures – these may include cold laser, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and therapeutic exercise.
  • Sports Medicine – our Sports Medicine team treats patients of any level of fitness and works with them to develop a customized treatment plan whether the joint pain is due to an injury or post-operative rehabilitation.
  • Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP) – research has shown that PRP therapy improves clinical outcomes and decreases further degeneration in patients suffering with osteoarthritis and other joint diseases or injuries.
  • Stem Cell Therapy – studies have shown that stem cell therapy can relieve pain from osteoarthritis, chronic tendonitis, as well as tennis elbow and other elbow conditions.
  • Whole-Person Assessment – in some complex cases, factors such as diet, lifestyle, sleep, stress, insulin-sensitivity, gene-environment interactions, and hormone levels may interfere with a person’s ability to heal, and may need to be addressed.

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