The elbow is the joint where three bones meet in the middle area of the arm. The elbow helps move the arm forward and backward and in rotation. Most elbow injuries in adults occur during activities such as sports or recreational activities, work-related tasks and accidental falls. The risk for injury is higher in contact sports such as soccer, hockey, rugby and wrestling. Older adults have a higher risk for elbow injuries because of problems with vision and balance, which increase their risk for accidental falls.
Common Elbow Injuries
Elbow injuries may be acute or a result of putting too much stress on the elbow joint through repetition of an activity. An acute elbow injury can be caused by a direct blow to the joint or by twisting or bending an elbow abnormally. Acute injuries include bruises, strains, dislocation, sprains and injuries to ligaments and tendons in the elbow. Nearly all acute injuries are characterized by sudden and sharp pain in the elbow followed by bruising and swelling.
Overuse injuries cause soreness and pain on the lateral or in the inner part of the elbow. Lateral epicondylitis, commonly known as tennis elbow, refers to injury to those large tendons that attach to the elbow to form the muscles of the forearm. The overuse of the forearm muscles during activities such as swimming, tennis and sports involving throwing can lead to the inflammation of the tendons, causing sharp pain over the outside of the elbow. Medial epicondylitis, also known as golfer’s elbow, is inflammation of forearm tendons that attach to the bony prominence of the inner elbow. Medial epicondylitis is characterized by local pain, inflammation and tenderness over the inner elbow. Physical activities which require twisting the forearm may worsen the injury. Ulnar nerve compression is a condition that refers to the pinching of the ulnar nerve near the elbow joint. It is also caused by overuse of the forearm muscles. The bones of the elbow can break by overdoing an activity or through repetition of an activity. An elbow fracture causes sharp pain, inflammation and tenderness in the elbow joint.
Diagnosis And Treatment
The physical therapy treatment that you will receive for your elbow injury will depend on the location, type and severity of the injury, and your health condition. Severe cases would be seen by a physical therapy expert for prompt diagnosis and treatment. Elbow injuries can be diagnosed with a thorough physical exam, X-rays and MRI scans.
Lateral epicondylitis can be treated by applying ice on the affected area, resting the forearm, and taking anti-inflammatory medications. Braces and supportive straps will help prevent reoccurrence of the injury. Physical therapy treatment for medial epicondylitis includes a combination of cryotherapy, heat therapy, electrotherapeutic modalities, and range-of-motion exercises. Treatment options for ulnar nerve compression include rest, ice, soft tissue massage, and general conditioning exercises. Stress fractures generally require immobilization and casts. Once the fracture has been treated, a rehabilitation program comprising of strengthening and stretching exercises will be incorporated into your daily routine (for at least one month) to speed up the recovery process.
Call Happy Physio on (08) 9272 7359 now for appointment and to get the best advice on prevention and treatment of elbow injuries.