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Elbow Pain

The elbow can be affected by a number of different conditions, some of the most common injuries and complaints include:

  • Tennis / Golfer’s Elbow
  • Olecranon Bursitis
  • Biceps Tendinopathy

What is it and what are the symptoms?

Tennis and Golfer’s Elbow

These are both conditions whereby there is inflammation and irritation of the tendons that attach the forearm muscles to the elbow. The difference between the two lies in which side of the elbow is affected, “tennis” is the outside surface of the elbow (when the arms are straight by the side and the palms are facing forward) and “golfer’s” relates to the inside aspect of the joint. Symptoms of both of these injuries are similar but can differ slightly. Both conditions will usually produce pain radiating from the elbow down the forearm, both will be tender to touch at the bony part of the joint, both can be felt when griping and twisting and both will also result in weakness at the wrist and in grip strength. Golfer’s elbow can also produce pins and needles in the little and ring fingers.

Olecranon Bursitis

The term ‘Bursitis’ means swelling of the bursa, which is a fat pad at the elbow. It can result from an injury or from an infection which can happen when the skin at the elbow is broken (from a scrape or an insect bite etc.) Symptoms commonly include swelling (a ball shaped sac of fluid), warm to the touch, redness around the area, potentially fever like complaints and there may or may not be pain or tenderness, people usually maintain full range of motion.

Biceps Tendinopathy

This involves to the tendon attaching the biceps muscle to the elbow which enables us to bend the elbow. It can become overused and inflamed when there is a sudden increase in the volume and/or intensity of activity which includes flexing and extending the elbow or rotating the wrist. There will usually be pain or discomfort at the front of the elbow which is exacerbated on bending the elbow and turning the palm upwards.

What can be done to help?

Tennis and Golfer’s Elbow

Ice will help to reduce inflammation, stretching exercises, massage and taping methods can help to reduce the tension in the muscles up the forearms. Conscious thought and effort should be made to release grip strength and also keep the wrist in neutral at all times, this will help to reduce the pain.

Olecranon Bursitis

Treatment of bursitis depends on whether it is infected or it is an injury. If it is an injury, it will go away on its own over a several week period, you can help this process by avoiding irritating activities, wearing elbow wraps or pads and taking anti-inflammatories. If the swelling is causing a delay in recovery then the blood can be drained to speed up the process. If it is infected then the infection must be treated with medication.

Biceps Tendinopathy

A combination of activity modification to avoid situations which put excessive strain on the biceps tendon, pain medication and ice will be ideal in the initial stages of the injury. Gentle stretching and subsequent strengthening exercises should be introduced to return the elbow to its original function as pain allows.

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A thorough movement assessment would be beneficial, this will take a look at the body as a whole and highlight any dysfunctional movement patterns which may slow down recovery or potentially cause further injury.

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