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The elbow joint forms where two of your arm bones, the ulna (forearm) and humerus (upper arm), meet. Your other forearm bone, the radius, is also involved and forms a joint of its own with the ulna, but the elbow joint most commonly talked about mainly exists between the ulna and humerus. In and around the joint are soft tissues like ligaments, muscles, tendons, and cartilage that all work together to help support and provide structure to the elbow.

Common Sources of Elbow Pain or Injury

When the elbow area starts to be painful or is injured, there can be many different causes. Outside and around the joint area, overuse or repetitive use injuries can lead to elbow pain, like in the case of tendinitis, which refers to the inflammation of a tendon. Active tennis players or golfers may have heard about tennis or golfers’ elbow, which are common cases of tendonitis on the inside or outside of the elbow area. Tendinitis can begin as inflammation, but if not addressed, it can worsen and result in a tear or longer-term inflammation.

There are muscles you likely already know that help support the elbow joint. Larger muscles like your biceps and triceps help to bend and straighten your elbow, while smaller groups of muscles also cross over the elbow joint and largely help you lift and lower your wrist, and rotate your forearm.

Bursitis is another possible cause of elbow pain. While tendinitis refers to an inflammation of a tendon, bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa, which is a fluid-filled sac around the joint area meant to provide cushion and decrease friction.

Other conditions, like arthritis, can impact the cartilage inside of the joint, which can lead to stiffness, pain, or limitations in range of motion. The cartilage inside of the joint may also be torn or injured for other reasons, such as during a collision or sport.

Another possible cause of elbow pain is called impingement, which means a structure around the joint is getting pinched or has pressure placed on it by another structure. For many of the conditions common in the elbow, there are several treatment options available.

Common Elbow Conditions

  • Elbow Spurs
  • Elbow Arthritis
  • Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) Tear
  • Golfer's Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis)
  • Triceps Tendon Rupture
  • Bursitis

Common Treatments for Elbow Pain or Injury

When you’re in pain, it’s important to seek help from a healthcare professional, like your primary care physician or a physical therapist, who can help to identify the cause and work with you to explore the right treatment options.

Physical therapy is a common first line of treatment for those dealing with elbow pain. A physical therapist will evaluate your pain in order to identify a possible diagnosis. Then, they will collaborate with you to put together a plan of action.

These plans often include home-based and clinic-based exercises, and they can also include manual treatments like soft tissue mobilization or electrical stimulation to provide pain relief. The goals of physical therapy often include decreasing pain and/or inflammation, increasing range of motion, improving muscle strength, and it may also include lifestyle or home modifications as well as education about the body and your condition.

A physician may prescribe medications or injections, as well. These medications are often meant to reduce pain or inflammation, and they may be used in addition to other treatments, like physical therapy. In some cases, surgery, like arthroscopic debridement, may be discussed or recommended as a treatment option.

Common Elbow Treatments

  • Physical Therapy
  • Elbow Arthritis Surgery
  • Orthobiologics
  • Autograft (UCL Tear)
  • Non-Operative Golder's Elbow Treatment
  • Elbow Fracture Surgery

Our Elbow Specialists

At Orthopedic ONE, our team of sports medicine as well as the hand, wrist and upper extremity surgeons are highly qualified in all conditions of the elbow from common overuse to complex fractures and dislocations. If you are experiencing elbow pain, call us today and we’ll get you on the road to recovery and back to enjoying life.

These lists are not inclusive of all conditions and procedures. In order to obtain a complete and accurate diagnosis, a physician should assess your individual situation. Following diagnosis, your physician will discuss appropriate treatment options with you – both surgical and non-surgical. Schedule an appointment with an Orthopedic ONE physician.

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