Elbow pain can be caused by a variety of problems. A common cause in adults is tendinitis, an inflammation and injury to the tendons – soft tissues that attach muscle to bone.
People who play racquet sports are most likely to injure the tendons on the outside of the elbow. This condition is commonly called tennis elbow. Golfers are more likely to injure the tendons on the inside of the elbow.
Tennis and golfer’s elbow are overuse injuries.
Other common causes of elbow tendinitis are gardening, playing baseball, using a screwdriver or overusing your wrist.
Young children commonly develop “nursemaid’s elbow,” usually when someone is pulling on their straightened arm. The bones are stretched apart momentarily and a ligament slips in between, where it becomes trapped when the bones try to snap back into place.
Children will usually quietly refuse to use the arm, but often cry out with any attempt to bend or straighten the elbow. This condition is also called an elbow subluxation, which is a partial dislocation.
Other common causes of elbow pain are:
- Bursitis, an inflammation of a fluid-filled cushion beneath the skin
- Arthritis, a narrowing of the joint space and loss of cartilage in the elbow
- Elbow strains
- Infection of the elbow
- Household chores
What you can do:
When you first notice the pain, apply ice up to 15 minutes every hour for the first day. Continue to apply ice every 3 to 4 hours for up to 3 days.
Wrap the ice in a cloth. Do not apply ice directly to the skin.
Wrap your elbow with a bandage, such as an ACE bandage. You may need an air splint to keep the elbow immobilized.
Keep the elbow elevated above your heart, if possible. Give the elbow joint complete rest for at least two days.
Do not return to the activity that caused the problem for at least three weeks. Then, gradually strengthen the muscles around your elbow.
While you are resting the joint, take pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. You should begin to gradually strengthen the muscles around the elbow through gentle flexibility exercises.
Contact your doctor if:
- You have a prolonged case of tendinitis that doesn’t improve with home care.
- The pain is due to a direct elbow injury.
- There is obvious deformity.
- You are unable to use the elbow.
- You have fever or swelling and redness of your elbow.
- A child has elbow pain.
Robert W. Ferguson, D.C., F.I.A.M.A., state-licensed chiropractor and acupuncturist, sees patients at 2250 W. 86th Street, Ste. 100, on the north side of Indianapolis by Le Peep restaurant. Just look for the orange sign.
Chiropractic Rehabilitation & Acupuncture now accepts Healthy Indiana Plan for chiropractic services, and most insurance for chiropractic therapy and acupuncture.
Dr. Ferguson also offers a noninvasive low-energy or low-level laser therapy that is Food and Drug Administration approved for temporary pain relief. But most insurance plans don’t cover it just yet.