Our elbows are some of the most overworked parts of our body, but are rarely noticed until something goes wrong. Unfortunately, for as important as they are, our elbows aren’t very well protected, and injuries happen quite often.
Accidents sometimes happen, but more often than not, issues of the elbow happen slowly over time. The most common cause of elbow problems is overuse, but genetics play a small role as well. Some of the most common elbow issues are:
Medial Epicondylitis (Golf Elbow)
This is a common condition among athletes which affects the inside of the elbow and causes it to be tight and sore. Medial epicondylitis earned its nickname because the condition is especially prevalent in racket-sport athletes. Unlike its sister condition, tennis elbow, golf elbow affects the inside of the elbow.
The primary cause for this condition is the flexor/pronator muscles. Stress is placed on these muscles every time a golfer completes their swing. The more swings a golfer takes, the worse the condition gets. Despite its name, this condition can occur in anyone who repeatedly uses their elbow in a swinging motion.
Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)
Much like golfer’s elbow affects the inside of the elbow, tennis elbow affects the outside. Over time, the connective tendons to the elbow wear out with continued use. As a tennis player is consistently hitting their forehand, they are using these tendons.
Baseball pitchers are another group of athletes who suffer from this condition. The stress brought on the elbow from throwing wears it out quickly, causing tremendous pain and stiffness.
The most common treatment for this condition is rest. Resting the elbow gives the body time to heal the connective tissues in the tendon without the use of surgery. However, in extreme cases, surgery may be required.
The olecranon bone is the sharp, pointy bone at the very tip of the elbow. Connected to it is a sac of fluid called the bursa. This little sac allows the skin to easily slide over the pointy olecranon bone when we move. Sometimes the bursa sac will get irritated, and the body produces more fluid for it than normal. This causes the sac to inflate and create an extra bump on the elbow.
The good news about olecranon bursitis is that it’s usually painless and eventually goes away on its own. It can be caused by a bump on the elbow, or if someone rests their elbow on hard objects while doing their daily tasks. For example, students using library tables to study or office workers using inadequate desks to support their elbows while typing. The most common way to treat this condition is to add some kind of cushioning to their daily tasks or by using elbow pads.
It is possible that this condition is related to another condition such as gout. This usually isn’t the case, but this is something we will look for during your consultation.
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
There are few things in life more annoying than hitting your funny bone. We’ve all experienced the pain and tingling after knocking the side of our elbow on something. The reason we have these feelings is because the funny bone isn’t actually a bone, but a nerve. Cubital Tunnel Syndrome occurs when this nerve is stretched or irritated beyond accidentally hitting it on a table.
Chronic pressure on this nerve can cause the tingling sensation and pain to last well beyond the temporary symptoms of a funny bone strike. This pressure generally occurs when the elbow is bent for long periods of time. Common occurances of this are talking on the phone too long, leaning on a desk at work or while we’re sleeping.
The best way to avoid this syndrome, and the number one way to treat it when it occurs, is to keep the elbow straight and shield the funny bone from contact. In emergency cases, surgery can be utilized to take pressure off of this nerve.
If you are an athlete, or your job requires repetitive bending of your elbow, you may be at risk for some of the problems listed here. Call our offices today for a consultation on elbow issues. We’ll take care of any current issues you may have, and tell you how to prevent further issues in the future.