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Seven Reasons Your Elbow Hurts & What To Do About It

The elbow is not a simple joint, it allows you to throw lift and swing amongst other actions. This means that elbow problems can not only be painful but can seriously affect the way you live your life, especially if the pain is in your dominant arm! The elbow joint it formed by three bones; the humerus (in your upper arm) and the ulna and radius (in your forearm), these are joined by ligaments and tendons. If anything happens to any of these parts, or to the nerves and blood vessels surrounding them then it can cause pain.

DISLOCATIONS OR FRACTURES

These are one-time injuries which can happen when you fall or are hit at the elbow, for example during a sporting activity. In a dislocation one of the bones of the elbow is knocked out of place, it is common when you have fallen and put your arm out to break your fall. It is also an injury seen in small children when you swing them by their arms (in a playful manor) and is called nursemaid’s elbow. A fracture is where one of the bones breaks at the elbow, usually caused by a sudden blow from a contact sport or car accident. Sometimes you are still able to move your elbow after a fracture so don’t be fooled! If it doesn’t look right and is painful you may well have a fracture.

STRAINS OR SPRAINS

Another common sporting injury when you’ve pushed yourself that little bit too far and muscles or ligaments are over stretched or torn. Sprains are common in athletes who throw, use racquets or play contact sports. Strains are often caused by putting too much pressure on your elbow muscles when lifting heavy objects or in sports. Both types are treated with rest and ice, followed by stretching and strengthening when the pain has gone. It is common for us to see patients with this condition and find out it’s because their elbow is not ‘aligned’ properly and the offending activity causes the strain. Luckily this is easy for us to treat effectively!

WEAR AND TEAR

Wear and tear injuries occur over a period of time by repeating certain actions that put pressure on your joints. This can be in sports but can also by in different work settings from a factory or retail environment to an office. Arthritis is a form of wear and tear and the two main types that can affect your elbow are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is most common at the elbow and is an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks its own healthy tissue causing swelling, heat and pain in the joints.

BURSITIS

We tend to see quite a few patients with this condition. The come in with a very swollen elbow showing a lot of fluid in the area. Bursa are small sacs that contain fluid which you have in your joints to help cushion your bones and to help the skin slide over bones. When they get swollen and start to cause pain it is called ‘bursitis.’ This can be caused by an accident or infection but more commonly it is caused by repetitive motions over a period of time for example by a job or a sport you love (as with wear and tear). Generally this is treated by stopping the offending activity and using pain relief and anti-inflammatory drugs.

TENNIS AND GOLFERS ELBOW

You have probably heard of both of these injuries however might not really know what they are. Essentially both are types of tendinitis, which is swelling in the tendons around your elbow and generally caused by overuse. They are different mainly because of the location of the pain; tennis elbow causes problems on the outside of your elbow whereas golfers elbow affects the inside. The names of these injuries is down to the fact that you are more likely to get them based on the arm motions used in each of these sports but that does not mean they are exclusive to golfers or tennis players! It is quite common to have either one without playing the sports as it could be linked to activities you do in your day-to-day life.

TRAPPED NERVES

The elbow is one of those curious areas where the nerve runs close to the body part of the elbow. It is not protected very well and if you bang your elbow it can feel ‘funny’ hence the phrase ‘funny bone’! Trapped nerves can occur at two main points in the elbow. The ulnar nerve runs along the inside of your elbow and goes through the cubital tunnel. When this is compressed in the area it is called cubital tunnel syndrome and causes pain, tingling or numbness in your arm, hand and fingers. The second place you can have nerve compression in the elbow is the radial nerve in the radial tunnel…so called radial tunnel syndrome! This is on the outside of your elbow and causes the same symptoms but more specifically on the outside of the forearm and elbow. As well as trapped nerves located at the elbow, those trapped at the neck can refer pain down the arm and to the elbow, sometimes misconceived as a problem at the elbow when its not!

OSTEOCHONDRITIS DISSECANS

This is a condition that is mostly seen in children and teenagers. Essentially a piece of bone near the elbow dies and breaks off along with some cartilage. This can cause pain during physical activity. It is more common at the knee but can also occur at the elbow.

WHAT NEXT?

If you think you may have dislocated or fractured your elbow you need to consult your hospital as soon as possible!

When it comes to some of the other conditions listed above there are other treatment options available… Chiropractic care is a great place to start! Beginning with a full history and examination a Chiropractor will be able to assess whether your pain is coming from a trapped nerve in your neck or the elbow itself and advice you on treatment options accordingly. They can refer you to another health professional if they decide you are not a chiropractic case. Want to know more? Call us at Castle Lane Clinic 01202 300320 or Fordingbridge 01425 652951 to speak to someone today!

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