We use our arms for countless tasks throughout the day, and some of these actions put significant stress on our elbow joint. Whether you’re swinging a sledgehammer on the job site, playing tennis in gym class or lifting and moving boxes, a lot of force will be channeled through your elbow joint. If this area becomes overstressed or inflamed, pain and other symptoms can develop. Below, we take a closer look at some common elbow joint conditions and explain how physical therapy can help keep your elbows healthy.
Common Elbow Joint Disorders
Your elbow is a hinge joint comprised by the union of three bones, the humerus, radius and ulna, and it’s also home to two major ligaments, your ulnar collateral ligament and your radial collateral ligament. The UCL is located on the inner side of the joint while your RCL sits on the outer side of the joint, and they both help provide joint movement and limit excessive flexibility. When a problem develops in your elbow, it’s typically due to issues with these ligaments or the surrounding muscles. Some common elbow problems we assist with include:
- Tennis Elbow – Tennis elbow is the common name of the medical condition that is caused by overuse of the muscles that help extend your wrist. This leads to swelling and inflammation in the muscle tendons, which causes pain in the outer area of your elbow joint. Not surprisingly, it’s common in recreational tennis players who overuse these muscles during a normal forearm swing motion.
- Golfer’s Elbow – A close cousin to tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow is caused by overuse of the muscles that flex your wrist. This leads to swelling and inflammation in the muscle tendons near the elbow. Per the name, it’s common in recreational golfers who flex their wrist with each swing of the club.
- Biceps Tendonitis – Your bicep helps to bend your elbow and elevate your shoulder, and it’s connected to the bones above and below your arm by a thick tendon. With repetitive motion and overuse, the tendon can become inflamed and painful when used.
- Olecranon Bursitis – There is a bursa sac at the tip of your elbow that helps your skin move freely over the underlying bone, but when this sac gets irritated due to repetitive motion, swelling and joint discomfort can set in.
- Little Leaguer’s Elbow – Elbow injuries from sporting activities aren’t just for adults. Children and teens who play baseball and throw or pitch too frequently while their arms are still growing can develop little leaguer elbow (also known as apophysitis). Pain and discomfort are typically felt on the inner side of the elbow.
When it comes to recovering from an elbow injury, there are generally two main treatment courses that should be used in combination with one another – rest and physical therapy. For starters, you need to take a break from the activities that caused your issue in the first place. Give yourself some time away from the sport so that you can resume playing pain-free in the near future. However, just because you’re resting your elbow doesn’t mean you need to remain inactive.
Physical Therapy Benefits
Physical therapy is the other aspect of treatment that will help to strengthen key aspects of your elbow while it’s healing. These exercises and strength training activities will give your muscles and ligaments the ability to handle more stress and be better prepared for activity, helping to stave off potentially problematic inflammation. A careful combination of rest and controlled strengthening exercises can help to restore full mobility and normal function in your elbow joint and get you back to doing the activities that you love.
So if you’re dealing with minor discomfort or major pain in your elbow with every swing you take, setup an appointment with a physical therapist at OrthoRehab Specialists today. Many of our therapists are former athletes, so they have a specific understanding of the body mechanics of the sports that may be contributing to your elbow injury, and they know the best ways the help rehabilitate the joint. For more information, reach out to our clinic today.
PT of Costa Rican National Soccer Team for 2007 World Cup in Victoria, CAN. Clinical Instructor for University of Minnesota Doctor of Physical Therapy Affiliations
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