Elbow

Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)

Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a painful condition of the elbow caused by overuse. Not surprisingly, playing tennis or other racquet sports can cause this condition. However, several other sports and activities can also put you at risk.

Tennis elbow is an inflammation of the tendons that join the forearm muscles on the outside of the elbow. The forearm muscles and tendons become damaged from overuse — repeating the same motions again and again. This leads to pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow.

There are many treatment options for tennis elbow. In most cases, treatment involves a team approach. Primary doctors, physical therapists, and, in some cases, surgeons work together to provide the most effective care.

Overuse

Recent studies show that tennis elbow is often due to damage to a specific forearm muscle. The extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) muscle helps stabilize the wrist when the elbow is straight. This occurs during a tennis groundstroke, for example. When the ECRB is weakened from overuse, microscopic tears form in the tendon where it attaches to the lateral epicondyle. This leads to inflammation and pain.

The ECRB may also be at increased risk for damage because of its position. As the elbow bends and straightens, the muscle rubs against bony bumps. This can cause gradual wear and tear of the muscle over time.

Symptoms

The symptoms of tennis elbow develop gradually. In most cases, the pain begins as mild and slowly worsens over weeks and months. There is usually no specific injury associated with the start of symptoms.

Common signs and symptoms of tennis elbow include:

  • Pain or burning on the outer part of your elbow

  • Weak grip strength

The symptoms are often worsened with forearm activity, such as holding a racquet, turning a wrench, or shaking hands. Your dominant arm is most often affected; however both arms can be affected.

*All Information provided by The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Osteoarthritis of the Elbow

Osteoarthritis of the elbow occurs when the cartilage surface of the elbow is worn out or is damaged. This can happen because of a previous injury such as elbow dislocation or fracture. Most commonly, however, it is the result of a normal wearing away of the joint cartilage from age and activity.

Osteoarthritis usually affects the weight-bearing joints, such as the hip and knee. The elbow is one of the least affected joints because of its well matched joint surfaces and strong stabilizing ligaments. As a result, the elbow joint can tolerate large forces across it without becoming unstable

Cause

Some patients who are diagnosed with elbow osteoarthritis have a history of injury to the elbow, such as a fracture that involved the surface of the joint, or an elbow dislocation. The risk for elbow arthritis increases if:

  • The patient needed surgery to repair the injury or reconstruct the joint

  • There is loss of joint cartilage

  • The joint surface cannot be repaired or reconstructed to its preinjury level

Injury to the ligaments resulting in an unstable elbow can also lead to osteoarthritis, even if the elbow surface is not damaged, because the normal forces across the elbow are altered, causing the joint to wear out more rapidly.

In some patients, no single injury to the elbow occurs. Work or outside activities can lead to osteoarthritis of the elbow if the patient places more demands on the joint than it can bear. For example, professional baseball pitchers place unusually high demands on their throwing elbows, which can lead to failure of the stabilizing ligaments. When this occurs, surgical reconstruction may be needed. High-shear forces placed across the joint can lead to cartilage breakdown over a period of years.

The best way to prevent elbow arthritis is to avoid injury to the joint. When injury does occur, it is important to recognize it right away and get treatment. Individuals involved in heavy work or sports activities should maintain muscular strength around the elbow. Proper conditioning and technique should always be used.

X-ray showing an elbow with early degenerative changes.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of elbow arthritis are:

  • Pain

  • Loss of range of motion

Both of these symptoms may not occur at the same time. Patients usually report a "grating" or "locking" sensation in the elbow. The "grating" is due to loss of the normal smooth joint surface. This is caused by cartilage damage or wear. The "locking" is caused by loose pieces of cartilage or bone that dislodge from the joint and become trapped between the moving joint surfaces, blocking motion.

Joint swelling may also occur, but this does not usually happen at first. Swelling occurs later, as the disease progresses.

In the later stages of osteoarthritis of the elbow, patients may notice numbness in their ring finger and small finger. This can be caused by elbow swelling or limited range of motion in the joint. The "funny bone" (ulnar nerve) is located in a tight tunnel behind the inner (medial) side of the elbow. Swelling in the elbow joint can put increased pressure on the nerve, causing tingling. If the elbow cannot be moved through its normal range of motion, it may stiffen into a position where it is bent (flexion). This can also cause pressure around the nerve to increase

*All Information provided by The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Biceps Tendon Tear at the Elbow

The biceps muscle is located in the front of your upper arm. It is attached to the bones of the shoulder and elbow by tendons — strong cords of fibrous tissue that attach muscles to bones.

Tears of the biceps tendon at the elbow are uncommon. They are most often caused by a sudden injury and tend to result in greater arm weakness than injuries to the biceps tendon at the shoulder.

Once torn, the biceps tendon at the elbow will not grow back to the bone and heal. Other arm muscles make it possible to bend the elbow fairly well without the biceps tendon. However, they cannot fulfill all the functions of the elbow, especially the motion of rotating the forearm from palm down to palm up. This motion is called supination.

To return arm strength to near normal levels, surgery to repair the torn tendon is usually recommended. However, nonsurgical treatment is a reasonable option for patients who may not require full arm function.

Symptoms

Sciatica may feel like a bad leg cramp, with pain that is sharp ("knife-like"), or electrical. The cramp can last for weeks before it goes away. You may have pain, especially when you move, sneeze, or cough. You may also have weakness, "pins and needles" numbness, or a burning or tingling sensation down your leg.

Causes

You are most likely to get sciatica between the ages of 30 and 50 years. It may happen as a result of the general wear and tear of aging, plus any sudden pressure on the disks that cushion the bones (vertebrae) of your lower spine.

Treatment

Nonsurgical Treatment

The condition usually heals itself, given sufficient time and rest. Approximately 80% to 90% of patients with sciatica get better over time without surgery, typically within several weeks.

Nonsurgical treatment is aimed at helping you manage your pain without long-term use of medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or muscle relaxants may also help. In addition, you may find it soothing to put gentle heat or cold on your painful muscles. It is important that you continue to move. Do not remain in bed, as too much rest may cause other parts of the body to feel discomfort.

Find positions that are comfortable, but be as active as possible. Motion helps to reduce inflammation. Most of the time, your condition will get better within a few weeks.

Sometimes, your doctor may inject your spinal area with a cortisone-like drug.

As soon as possible, start stretching exercises so you can resume your physical activities without sciatica pain. Your doctor may want you to take short walks and may prescribe physical therapy.

Surgical Treatment

You might need surgery if you still have disabling leg pain after 3 months or more of nonsurgical treatment. A part of your surgery, your herniated disk may be removed to stop it from pressing on your nerve.

The surgery (laminotomy with discectomy) may be done under local, spinal, or general anesthesia. This surgery is usually very successful at relieving pain, particularly if most of the pain is in your leg.

*All Information provided by The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

17 Elm Avenue, Hackensack, NJ USA 07601

Opening Hours:

Mon:  8am - 5pm

Tues, Thurs. : 9am - 5pm

Wed : 9am - 6pm

Fri : 8am - 3pm

​​Saturday: Closed

Sunday: Closed

CONTACT

Phone: (201) 968-0508

Fax: (201) 968-0509

© 2019 by Meese Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center Michael A. Meese M.D

                                             HealthGrades | RateMDs

  • Facebook Social Icon

Visit Us on Facebook