Elbow Injuries

Elbow injuries belfast

Elbow injuries can occur with trauma or as a result of overuse.

Symptoms include pain in the inner (medial) or outer (lateral) aspect of the elbow, as well as the back.  

Physio Performance will identify what is causing your symptoms and how best to fix them.  

Keep reading to find out about common elbow injuries:

Tennis Elbow

Lateral or outer elbow pain effects people who have to grip their hands during sports activity i.e. tennis, baseball, bowling and snooker. 

It is also experienced by manual workers who have to grip tools or lift repetitively as part of their job.  

The symptoms originate from the tendons that attach to the outer part of the elbow.  The condition is known with several different terms but medically they mean the same condition:

  • Tennis elbow
  • Lateral elbow tendinitis
  • Lateral elbow tendinopathy
  • Lateral elbow epicondylitis 

The tendons that involve gripping, the extensor carpi radialis braves (ECRB) attach to the bone of the outer elbow (lateral epicondyle). 

This area gets stressed during gripping movements.  

When the stress gets too much over time, the collagen within the tendon starts to break down and the area becomes painful.  

Physiotherapy treatment is aimed at improving the strength and flexibility of the gripping muscles.  

Treatment techniques include soft tissue therapy, muscle strengthening exercises, elbow strapping and acupuncture/dry needling.  

If the person does not respond to treatment then other options include cortisone injections, prolotherapy and surgery.  

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Golfer's Elbow

A condition that is the same as ‘tennis elbow’ but it occurs on the medial or inner side of the elbow.

The tendons that flex the wrist attach to the medial epicondyle bone.

When the stress gets too much, the tendon starts to break down and become painful.  

Treatment is also aimed at strengthening and stretching these tendons.

Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Strain

This ligament becomes strained from chronic throwing activities such as baseball.  

It can also be injured from an acute injury, such as tackling another player.  

The ligament heals through modifying activities, strengthening the elbow muscles, strapping the joint and changing throwing technique.  

If the elbow injury is severe, surgery would be required to make the ligament strong and stable again.

Ulnar Nerve Compression

The ulnar nerve passes through a groove on the inside of the elbow.  It can be overstretched or compressed from repetitive throwing activities. 

Symptoms include pain on the inside of the elbow with pins and needles radiating down the forearm and into the little finger.

Physiotherapy is carried out to relieve the pressure on the nerve. 

If symptoms persist, surgery is required to restore the nerve to its normal function.  

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Olecranon Bursitis

Pain at the back of the elbow can indicate an olecranon bursitis or ‘student’s elbow’. 

There is a bubble of fluid at the back of the elbow which prevents friction.  

When it gets irritated it becomes painful and swollen.  

The swelling can range from mild bump to to fluid sized sac the size of a tennis ball.  

People who work or study at desks can develop it from leaning on the hard surface of the table.  

Anti-inflammatories, ice and avoiding leaning on the elbow help to settle the symptoms.  

If this fails, the fluid is removed using a needle and then injected with cortisone.  

Triceps Tendinopathy

The triceps muscle attaches to the back of the elbow.  

It’s function is to extend the elbow, for example, when doing a bench press or shoulder press exercise.  

When the load gets too much, the tendon becomes painful during these types of extension exercises. 

Strengthening and stretching of the muscle resolves the issue.  

Posterior Elbow Impingement

The back of the elbow can become impinged from excessive excessive elbow extension or throwing movements.  

Over time the edge of the joint grows a margin of bone called an osteophyte. 

This causes the joint to pinch when trying to fully extend it.  

The condition can also occur from osteoarthritis of the joint as the cartilage starts to thin.  

If the symptoms are limiting, surgery is required to trim the osteophyte formation.

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Elbow Fractures

The elbow joint can break or fracture when falling directly onto the elbow or onto your hand.  

The force is transmitted up through the hand, forearm and into the elbow joint.  

It is more common in older people, particularly those with weaker bones from osteoporosis. 

It can also break from a direct blow to the elbow. 

A fracture is suspected if there is a loss of movement and pain.  

An x-ray should be carried out to confirm this. 

The management is dependent upon the type of fracture.  

An unstable fracture will require surgery but a stable fracture is treated by wearing a sling for period of 4-8 weeks.

When it starts to heal, physiotherapy can begin to restore movement and strength.   

Elbow Dislocation

The elbow can be forced out of the joint from a fall or tackle in contact sports. 

A fracture is often associated with this type of injury. 

The person will experience severe pain and are unable to move their elbow. 

These elbow injuries require emergency treatment in Accident and Emergency, to place the joint back in the correct place and to check for fractures. 

Biceps or Triceps Tendon Rupture

These elbow injuries are commonly seen in the gym during weightlifting.  

A pop is often heard as the tendon ruptures. 

The biceps tendon attaches to the front of the elbow where it can rupture.

The triceps tendon attaches to the back of the elbow. 

If a complete rupture occurs, surgery is required to repair it.  

Partial tears will heal with physiotherapy intervention.  

 

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