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Elbow Conditions

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Elbow Pain: Injury or Disease?

Orthopedic surgeons report that tendonitis may be the most common cause of elbow pain. It can affect athletes of all ages and skill levels, especially those performing high-stress overhand throwing motions.

The orthopedic surgeons and sports medicine specialists at Baylor Scott & White Orthopedic and Spine Hospital – Arlington devote their medical careers to diagnosing and successfully treating elbow conditions of all types.

Common causes of elbow pain include:

  • Torn ligaments
  • Tennis elbow
  • Golfer’s elbow
  • Bursitis
  • Elbow fracture
  • Dislocated elbow
  • Little Leaguer’s elbow
  • Arthritis
  • Sprained or strained elbow
  • Osteochondritis dissecans
  • Cubital tunnel syndrome
  • Radial tunnel syndrome
  • Bone spurs

Some of the elbow problems listed result from sports injuries or accidents, but others develop over time due to repetitive motion that wears down the joint and ligaments. A few elbow disorders can in relation to injuries in connected areas such as a herniated disc, broken arm or dislocated shoulder. The elbow may undergo strain because you are moving differently to compensate for pain in other areas of the body.

Other cases of elbow pain arise from degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. These types of elbow conditions typically feature joint pain, swelling and stiffness.

What is Tennis Elbow?

Lateral epicondylitis refers to a condition involving inflamed tendons in the area connecting the forearm to the outer edge of the elbow joint. You may experience symptoms such as weakened grip, stiffness, numb fingers, pain and burning on the outside of the elbow. Patients with golfer’s elbow experience similar symptoms, but these affect tendons on the inside of the elbow (ulnar collateral ligament or UCL).

Elbow pain may get worse when you move your forearm more in athletic activity, but wielding a tennis racket is not the only irritating factor. Tennis elbow can be aggravated by shaking hands, lifting weights, flexing the wrist, turning wrenches, or chopping food.

Injuries in the same category of elbow conditions as tennis elbow are sometimes called repetitive motion disorders. These types of elbow conditions can affect the muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and elbow joint. They cause everything from mild elbow strain and tendonitis to conditions such as ulnar nerve damage, stress fracture or bursitis.

Bursitis Impairs Elbow Joint Mobility

Bursitis occurs when the fluid-filled sac providing a cushion within the elbow joint is damaged. The bursa can be impacted by trauma, long term pressure on the elbow, repetitive motion injuries, arthritis, joint infection, or diseases such as thyroid conditions and diabetes. Swelling is often the first visible symptom, leading to pain, additional joint pressure and difficulty bending the elbow.

An orthopedic doctor may recommend antibiotics and a simple procedure to remove excess fluid in the joint with a needle in the case of elbow joint infection. X-rays and needle aspiration can also be used to diagnose bursitis in the elbow. Changing elbow activities, wearing elbow pads, and taking anti-inflammatory medications can also help, but more serious cases of bursitis may call for orthopedic surgery.

Nerve Pressure Causes Elbow Pain

Sometimes elbow pain results from excess pressure along the ulnar nerve in the area commonly called the funny bone. Prolonged leaning on the elbow or sleeping with it bent under you can contribute to this problem, as can repetitive motions like pitching a baseball, bone spurs, cysts, arthritis, bursitis, or a hard impact to the elbow.

Depending on varying symptoms – elbow pain, numbness, weak fingers, muscle wasting, or hand deformity – your orthopedic specialist may diagnose elbow nerve conditions such as:

Elbow nerve disorder treatments range from simple preventative actions to pain management, physical therapy, or orthopedic surgery remedies including cubital tunnel release, radial tunnel release, and ulnar nerve transposition.

Orthopedic Doctors Understand Elbows

No matter what type of elbow injury or disorder you suffer, the orthopedic specialists at Baylor Scott & White – Arlington have the training, experience and diagnostic tools to find a solution. Call 855-41-ORTHO to set up an appointment to learn more about how to get rid of elbow pain.