How to Manage Elbow Pain
January 20th, 2020
Dealing with elbow pain is no joke.You don’t realize just how much work the elbow joint performs for you until you experience that dull,aching sensation.
According to WebMD,3 to 5 percent of the population deals with elbow pain. And there’s not one defining characteristic that explains why some people get it and others don’t. Age, gender, and athletic ability all vary widely.
If you’re dealing with pain in your elbow, there are some things you can do to manage your symptoms. In this article, we’ll look at what you can do.
How Does The Elbow Work?
A lot of muscles, ligaments, bones, and tendons connect to the elbow joint. You can think of it as the point where your humerus meets the two bones in your forearm (these are called your radius and ulna).
The elbow joint is a hinge joint, meaning it opens and closes like a door. Other joints, like the hip joint, are known as ball-and-socket joints, which can open, close, and rotate.
The elbow’s job is to transfer force from your fingers and hands up through your shoulder. It also keeps your wrists straight and allows nerves to send signals up to your arms to your brain.
Common Types Of Elbow Pain
Here are some common issues that Americans experience when they have elbow pain:
Whether you play golf or not, this is a common injury defined by overuse. Golfer’s elbow causes you to feel pain in the tendons on the outside part of your elbow (this becomes relevant in a second).
You might experience golfer’s elbow from any type of overuse, not just sports or physical activity. Because there are nerves located in these areas, you might feel a tingling or pain sensation in your wrists, forearms, or fingers, too.
Another sport-sounding injury, but another example of overuse that isn’t necessarily related to physical activity. Tennis elbow affects the tendons on the inside part of your joint, but can cause similar symptoms.
There is a ligament on the inside portion of your elbow called the ulnar collateral ligament, which is famous for the Tommy John Surgery that many baseball pitchers get. The two are not the same, as the latter requires surgery to fix and months of rehab.
Tennis elbow, like golfer’s elbow, can go away with rest.
Muscle or Joint Sprain
A sprain is categorized as a minor tear in your ligament, which can be the result of trauma-induced from the gym, playing sports, or just living everyday life. As you get older, the body becomes more susceptible to accidental injuries like this, especially if you don’t stay physically active.
The problem with muscle or joint sprains is that they tend to linger, and even prolonged bouts of rest can feel useless. Serious sprains can be diagnosed by doctors and sometimes pain medication can be given out to help deal with the pain.
The term arthritis is even vaguer than a sprain, as there are over 200 classifications of arthritis. But to put it simply, it means there is inflammation and possible deterioration of your joint.
As we age, the body’s tissues tend to decrease in strength and flexibility. This can exacerbate arthritis symptoms, and worse, make exercise—one proven way to reduce arthritis—difficult to do on a regular basis.
How Do I Fix Elbow Pain?
While elbow pain causes can vary greatly, there are some things you can do to mitigate your symptoms.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a time during the day where you can totally rest your elbows, but the more you can not use them, the better. Inflammation, tears, and other injuries can all be treated with time and low levels of activity.
Especially if you’re dealing with an overuse injury, rest should be your top priority.
Stretch and Exercise
Joint health is predicated on one’s ability to move the joint through its full range of motion. When you exercise and stretch the muscles surrounding your elbows, they get stronger and can protect you from injuries.
If you’re dealing with an overuse injury, though, exercise might make things worse. Start slow and if pain persists, see tip number one.
Ice can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain in your elbows. Do it in intervals several times throughout the day—say 5 minutes on, 20 minutes off, and repeat 3 or 4 times.
Over-the-counter painkillers like Tylenol and Ibuprofen can help reduce the pain you’re feeling in the joint. Always ask your doctor before you start taking medication, but you can use this to treat symptoms while you give your elbows time to rest.
If your pain isn’t going away, your doctor might recommend you see an occupational or physical therapist.
A good therapist can help safely improve the range of motion of the joint, give you exercises to do at home to reduce pain, and put you on a structured plan to get you back to one hundred percent.
How To Manage Elbow Pain: Wrap Up
Dealing with elbow pain is no joke. Besides the hip and shoulder joint, there isn’t a joint in the body that does more for you throughout the day. And if you’re experiencing discomfort in one or both elbows, it’s probably time to do something about it.
Unfortunately, the symptoms can be wide-spanning. Overuse injuries, sprains, and arthritis are all common causes of elbow joint pain. It might help to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis.
Stretching, icing, taking over the counter painkillers and seeing a physical therapist are all ways you can reduce your symptoms. Above all, though, rest—especially if it’s an overuse injury.
See our upper extremity therapy treatment options for more. And feel better soon!