Your elbow joint is made up of the humerus (upper arm bone) as well as the radius and ulna (forearm bones). Muscles and tendons move the elbow joint while ligaments primarily stabilize the joint. There are many potential causes of elbow pain, including tendonitis (tennis elbow), fractures or other trauma, arthritis, and nerve disorders. In fact, some symptoms such as numbness or tingling in the hand may be due to a problem at the elbow.
Orthopedic Associates of Hartford can help diagnose the cause of your hand or elbow symptoms and develop a treatment plan. Treatment of these conditions depends on the cause, and non-operative treatment is often successful. Our elbow specialists have specific training and experience in operative management of complex fractures, arthritis, ligament tears, and nerve disorders.
Some of the most common elbow problems include:
Sprains and Strains are tears to the ligaments or muscles caused by being stretched beyond their capacity. Ligaments join the ends of bones together.
Dislocation of joints occurs when one of the two bones that make up a joint separates from the other bone.
Fractures of the bones, or broken bones.
Tendonitis is inflammation or pain along a tendon. Tendons are the structures that connect your muscles to your bones. Tendons in the elbow that can experience tendonitis are the biceps and triceps tendon, as well as other tendons in tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow.
Bursitis is inflammation of a bursa. A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that is found where tendons pass by bony surfaces.
Arthritis occurs when the cartilage of a joint surface is injured. Arthritis can cause pain, swelling, and loss of motion.
Nerve problems occur when nerves around the elbow are inflamed or compressed. This can cause numbness, tingling, or weakness in the forearm or hand.
Symptoms associated with elbow pain depend on the cause. Symptoms may include:
- Tenderness on the outer bony part of the elbow
- Morning stiffness of the elbow with persistent aching
- Soreness in the forearm
- Pain that is worse when grasping or holding an object
- Numbness and tingling of the inner elbow, forearm, as well as the little and ring fingers
- Intense pain, swelling, or bruising due to an injury
Symptoms vary in intensity from mild to severe.
Medical History and Examination
During your first visit, your orthopedic surgeon will gather information about your general health and ask questions about the extent of your elbow pain and how it affects your ability to perform everyday activities. He will want to understand the duration and intensity of your symptoms and what types of actions lead to increased pain.
During the physical examination, your doctor will look at and touch your elbows and any other joints you may be experiencing problems with. Your doctor will be looking for areas that have tenderness, pain or swelling, as well as indications the joint may be damaged. Depending on the findings of the history and exam, your doctor may order lab tests and imaging tests to help make or confirm a diagnosis.
These images help to determine the extent of damage or deformity in the elbow. X-ray can reveal narrowing of the space between bones, which can be a sign of osteoarthritis, bone spurs, and fractures.
Other tests, such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or CAT scan may be ordered. These tests can provide more details about internal structures and can show soft tissues, such as cartilage, ligaments, and muscles more clearly than x-ray.
There are a number of non-surgical and surgical options to restore mobility and reduce pain.
When it comes to treating elbow pain, there are many options. Medication, both prescriptions and over-the-counter, are used to treat arthritis and control pain. Common medications are aspirin-free pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, and corticosteroids. Use of heat or cold over joints may provide short-term relief from pain and stiffness. Cortisone injections can be used to numb your elbow and minimize pain. Wearing a brace or splint may be recommended to provide stability. Physical therapy can be used pre- or post-surgery to restore function, minimize pain, and help you meet the demands of your normal routine.
Our surgical team is adept at the most advanced surgical techniques to inspect, diagnose, and repair elbow problems. They perform a wide range of surgeries including elbow arthroscopy, elbow replacement, and ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction.
Learn about tendonitis, also commonly known as tennis elbow
Learn about bursitis and treatment options
Watch this video to learn about Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction, also known as Tommy John Surgery
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