Suffering With An Elbow Injury?: The Most Common Elbow Injuries
Whether it’s a a sports injury, the early stages of elbow osteoarthritis, or a the result of a slip around the house, many individuals suffer from serious elbow injuries and conditions and don’t even know it. Is your elbow causing you trouble? Is this a simple elbow strain or something more involved?
Radial Tunnel Syndrome
The radial nerve runs down the arm through your wrist and into your hand. If the surrounding tissues in your arm and hand begin to compress or stretch this nerve you may experience pain and discomfort.
A ulnar collateral ligament injury (UCL injury) is a typical throwing injury. In fact, the UCL is one of the most commonly injured throwing ligaments. Depending on the severity of the UCL injury, the ligament may be completely or partially torn.
Elbow Overuse Injuries
Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow both involve inflammation of the tendons along the forearm and elbow. This typically involves pain around the small bump on the inside of the elbow known as the medial epicondyle.
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
The ulnar nerve extends from your elbow to your hand. If this nerve is compressed or stretched by surrounding tissues you may experience pain and discomfort. This is called cubital tunnel syndrome or ulnar nerve entrapment.
The olecranon is the bony tip on the back of your elbow and an olecranon stress fracture is another common throwing injury. Olecranon fractures can also result from hard falls and car accidents.
Over time normal wear and tear diminishes the cartilage between your bones. As this cartilage is worn away, the bones in the joint may begin to rub against one another resulting in bone on bone pain.
The fluid-filled sac in your elbow (known as the olecranon bursa) acts as a buffer between your skin and the elbow. Elbow bursitis involves inflammation of the bursa.
A Full Range of Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Care for Your Elbow Injury
At Sports Medicine Oregon, we understand that every elbow injury is unique. With this in mind, we take a personalized and methodical approach to your elbow injury and then design a plan of action. After all we are here to treat our patients not just their symptoms.
The Sports Medicine Oregon orthopedic care capabilities include everything from cutting edge regenerative injections and total elbow replacement surgery to individually tailored strength training and physical therapy regimens. A treatment program focused on pain alone won’t remedy the underlying problem.
So what are your treatment options? It all starts with a detailed history of your problem and an exam by a board certified orthopedic or sports medicine physician and ends with a personalized plan of action specific to your elbow injury.
At Sports Medicine Oregon, we’ve treated thousands of elbow injuries and it all starts with a thorough history of your problem and examination at our state of the art facility. We will diagnose the root cause of your elbow pain and then design a strategy to help you restore your active lifestyle.
Simply put: Different types of elbow pain indicate different types of elbow injuries. What is your body trying to tell you? Your specific symptoms and your activity level will give us a better idea of the treatment options to discuss with you.
Once we’ve established your diagnosis, one of our board certified orthopedic and sports medicine physicians will assess and diagnose the cause of your elbow symptoms. An accurate diagnosis is paramount to the shortest possible road to recovery.
Return to Play Guidelines
Understanding how often and how aggressively you can go about your normal activity regimen will depend on your injury, your lifestyle, and your elbow pain. Typically, many common aches and pains can be adequately managed with strengthening and activity adjustments. At Sports Medicine Oregon, we call these personally tailored instructions your “Return to Play” guidelines.
Integrated Physical Therapy
Have you adjusted your lifestyle but your elbow is still holding you back? Physical therapy can strengthen the surrounding muscles and increase flexibility. It is often a necessary step to take when your underlying elbow injury is capable of healing without surgical intervention. Our on staff physical therapists will work directly with your physician to assure that your time is well spent.
Today, we are witnessing a true renaissance in sports medicine treatment and the latest biotech solutions can regrow healthy tissue and set you free from chronic elbow pain. Is platelet rich plasma (PRP), prolotherapy, or stem cell (bone marrow aspirate concentrate) therapy right for you?
Imaging and Interpretation
If the previous treatment options haven’t adequately managed your symptoms it may be time to pinpoint the structural cause of your elbow pain. Fortunately, we can image and diagnose many elbow injuries on-site at our cutting edge medical complex.
Minimally Invasive Corrective Surgery
Unlike more invasive “open” surgery, arthroscopic elbow surgery involves less pain, less swelling and shorter recovery times. After outpatient elbow arthroscopy, patients return home the same day and can be back to their active lifestyle in a minimal amount of time.
Total Joint Replacement
Are you experiencing elbow grinding or bone on bone joint pain? If joint preservation techniques haven’t alleviated your pain, joints damaged by severe elbow arthritis are often treated with total elbow replacement surgery as a last resort. If it turns out that this is the best option for you, our board certified orthopedic surgeons are leaders in the field.
Elbow Popping, Elbow Pain Or Reduced Range Of Motion: Time To See An Orthopedist
There are many elbow injuries, each with a range of elbow pain symptoms and degrees of severity. Whether it’s inner elbow pain, elbow popping, or signs of radial nerve pain, it’s important to understand exactly what these symptoms signify. What is your body trying to tell you?
Elbow pain associated with less severe injuries (namely bumps and bruises) can often be managed with rest, ice, compression, and elevation. However, structural injuries and more severe conditions will require professional treatment. Is your elbow pain the result of a sprained elbow or a potentially more serious injury?
Elbow Pain, Swollen Elbow?
Elbow bursitis and many common elbow injuries involve general pain and swelling. If the back of your elbow is swollen and also warm to the touch, this may be the result of an infected bursa. Those suffering from tricep tendonitis may experience general pain in the elbow during activity. In more severe cases, the elbow pain will also occur while the arm is at rest. Tennis elbow symptoms and golfer’s elbow symptoms typically include pain and sensitivity to the touch along the joint and connective tissue.
Elbow Nerve Pain? Tingling in Hands and Wrists?
With tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow, you may feel occasional numbness or even tingling in the fingers (ring finger and pinky fingers), forearm, and wrist. Tingling in the fingers is common with cubital tunnel syndrome as well as sharp pain sensations in the joint. Radial tunnel syndrome symptoms often include a sharp or achy feeling on the top of the hand. These elbow pain symptoms may worsen during activity or when you straighten your arm, wrist, and fingers.
Limited Range of Motion? Elbow Feels Weak?
If you are experiencing pain while pitching and diminished velocity you may have a UCL injury or elbow ligament damage. With elbow tendonitis, elbow swelling may make it difficult to fully extend your arm. More severe tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow symptoms also include weakness in hands, wrist, and loss of grip strength. Hand weakness and wrist instability are also common symptoms with many nerve conditions including cubital tunnel syndrome. If you’re experiencing locked elbow, this may be the result of loose bodies in the elbow joint or severe arthritis.
Best Elbow Injury Treatment Options
Depending on your age and activity you may not need to undergo surgery. Fortunately, at Sports Medicine Oregon, we offer many non surgical elbow treatment options for your elbow injury including personalized rehabilitation at our state-of-the-art outpatient physical therapy center and the latest regenerative treatments, such as PRP injections.
Your specific symptoms as well as your lifestyle activity level will give us a clearer idea of the treatment options to consider moving forward.
Accurate Diagnosis and Return to Play Guidelines
Once your elbow injury has been assessed and diagnosed by our board certified orthopedic and sports medicine surgeons, we can determine your Return to Play guidelines. These treatments will establish specific rules regarding your expectations and limitations until you return to your active lifestyle without elbow pain.
While competitive athletes and active individuals may need surgery, less active individuals often benefit from the same techniques used to treat high-level athletes, such as physical therapy, strength training, and assistive braces alongside general lifestyle adjustments. In fact, elbow injuries often respond well to nonsurgical treatment.
From elbow arthritis exercises to tennis elbow treatment, your nonsurgical options will be determined by the severity of your injury or joint inflammation. With this in mind, those in the preliminary stages of osteoarthritis can greatly benefit from the full spectrum of nonsurgical treatments.
Physical therapy exercises for elbow injuries will allow you to strengthen the surrounding muscles and also increase range of motion. Depending on your elbow injury we will create a strength training regimen based on you and your activity goals.
For decades, patients were exceedingly limited to shots designed to treat elbow pain (namely cortisone injections and elbow steroid injections). Today, that has all changed and there are many biological regeneration solutions to regrow and build joint tissues. Come in today and let’s talk about your regenerative injection options and PRP injections.
When Elbow Surgery Is The Best Option For Your Elbow Injury
Let’s say you’ve changed your lifestyle, tried physical therapy, and your elbow is still holding you back. If your symptoms cannot be managed with nonsurgical treatments or your functional plateau is keeping you from your active lifestyle it may be time to consider elbow surgery.
Tommy John Surgery
Tommy John surgery also known as Ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction is performed to repair a torn UCL or partial UCL tear. UCL surgery uses tissue grafts to reconstruct the damaged ligament.
Olecranon Fracture Surgery
While less severe stress olecranon fractures can be treated with immobilization and splints, more complex fractures will require surgery. If the bones are no longer in alignment, the surgery will restore the natural alignment and mobility of the joint.
Elbow Replacement Surgery
Early stage elbow arthritis can be managed with injections, braces, physical therapy, and general lifestyle changes, however, if these treatment options have not adequately relieved your elbow pain symptoms it may be time to consider elbow osteoarthritis surgery. During total this procedure, the surgeon will use synthetic parts to replace damaged structural components of your elbow.
Ulnar Nerve Surgery
From cubital tunnel release to ulnar nerve transposition and there are many procedures to correct ulnar nerve pain. Various ulnar nerve surgeries are designed to release pressure on the ulnar nerve.
Aspiration of the olecranon bursa is performed to treat inflammation of the fluid-filled sac between the elbow joint and the skin. An inflamed or infected bursa is commonly known as “Popeye elbow” and may need to be drained.
Arthroscopic Elbow Surgery: Non-Invasive Surgery For Your Elbow
Today there are many outpatient elbow surgery options and typically patients are free to return home just hours after the procedure. Unlike more invasive procedures, arthroscopic elbow surgery doesn’t involve large open incisions and results in less swelling and faster recoveries. These arthroscopic elbow surgeries are geared toward tendons, ligaments, and joint preservation not joint replacement.
What exactly is arthroscopic elbow surgery? During a typical procedure, the surgeon guides a small camera (arthroscope -- hence the name) through the elbow via a small incision and uses this visual data and surgical instruments to diagnose and treat the underlying cause of your elbow pain.
Less Pain and Swelling
General swelling and pain after arthroscopic elbow surgery should be expected. Unlike traditional arthrotomy surgeries (also known as “open surgeries”) arthroscopic elbow surgery involves small incisions to treat the underlying problem. This means less swelling, less damage to normal tissue, and less elbow pain after your procedure.
Smaller incisions often enable shorter recovery times allowing you to get back to your normal daily activity faster.
Decreased Risk of Infection
These smaller incisions minimize the overall healing time and also reduce patient’s risk of infection.
Almost all arthroscopic surgeries are performed as outpatient procedures and patients are normally free to return home just 1-2 hours after the surgery.
What Is the Recovery Time for Arthroscopic Elbow Surgery?
Now that the surgery is over, it’s time for the healing process to begin. Knowing what to anticipate during the recovery process can help keep us set realistic expectations beforehand. How long does it take to recover from elbow surgery?
Patients are able to return home an hour or two after surgery. At home, it’s important to keep the arm elevated and apply ice packs as needed to minimize any swelling and elbow pain. Your doctor will prescribe medication to help minimize pain after the procedure.
Your elbow will be immobilized for the first week to allow the joint to heal properly. Those with less strenuous “desk” jobs can go back to work within a few days after elbow arthroscopy. A full elbow arthroscopy recovery will take 1-3 months.
Physical therapy is crucial to elbow surgery recovery and your doctor will design a regimen for your specific elbow injury. These elbow exercises after surgery are designed to strengthen the muscles surrounding the joint and also increase flexibility to restore your active lifestyle.