The elbow joint comprises various components, including bones, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues. Tendons are flexible and sturdy bands that link muscles to bones. Elbow tendonitis is a prevalent condition affecting the connective tendons between the elbow and the forearm muscles, leading to inflammation.
Research shows two types of elbow tendonitis – Lateral epicondylitis, or tennis elbow, which causes pain on the outer side, and Medial epicondylitis, or golfer’s elbow, which leads to pain in the inner part of the elbow joints.
If tendonitis is not treated promptly, it can lead to chronic conditions and cause joint weakness. Therefore, it is crucial to identify the condition’s symptoms early on and seek advice from orthopedic experts to restore normal joint function and prevent further harm. Scroll down to discover more about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for elbow tendonitis.
Causes of Elbow Tendonitis
The major cause behind elbow tendonitis is repeated use of the elbow by rotating the forearm muscles. Here are some additional contributing factors that might induce the onset of the condition.
- Repetitive Motion
Elbow tendonitis is primarily developed due to repetitive motion that will stress the tissues and cause the tendons in the elbow to become inflamed and irritated. Sometimes, it may cause micro-tears in the tendons that can cause severe swelling.
Sports players and individuals with occupations or hobbies like butchers, carpenters, plumbers, and painters are more prone to the condition.
- Overuse Injuries
Tendonitis is also caused by overuse or repetitive use injuries by gripping objects with the first two fingers and thumb.
Despite the awareness of the condition, elbow tendonitis can affect every individual, despite age and gender. However, most patients diagnosed are found to be between the age of 30 and 50.
- Poor Technique
Following poor technique makes the progression of tendonitis more likely among sports individuals. On the other hand, working professionals who follow poor form are also prone to the condition.
Symptoms of Elbow Tendonitis
The general symptom for tennis and golfer’s elbow is a sharp pain that might radiate throughout the lower and upper arm or fingers. Below are some of the common elbow tendonitis symptoms.
You might feel pain and tenderness in the affected elbow, which is typically centralized around where the tendons of the elbows are attached to the forearm muscles.
The pain is followed by stiffness in the affected elbow joint. It gets worse, especially in the morning or at night.
The injury or damage to the tendons induces swelling, often associated with a burning or tingling sensation in the affected elbow joints.
The pain and inflammation caused by elbow tendinitis will cause weakness when using your arm or hand. It will also impact your ability to grip or lift objects like a doorknob or coffee cup, thereby decreasing the complete range of motion.
Diagnosis of Elbow Tendonitis
- Physical Examination
In the initial stage, the physician will perform a complete physical examination to know the cause of elbow pain. You will be asked to move or rotate your arm.
- Imaging Tests
Imaging tests are performed to get an intricate image of your elbow’s bones and soft tissues like tendons and ligaments. It will help you to find the exact root cause of the condition.
Treatment of Elbow Tendonitis
The quicker you treat the elbow tendonitis, the faster it will recover with optimized strength and flexibility. Here are some of the effective methods of treating the condition.
Rest from activities for a few days or weeks that tend to increase your pain. It will allow the inflammation to get reduced through the natural healing process. When you continue to use the injured arm in the same way as before the injury, it will only exaggerate the pain and lengthen the healing time.
- Ice therapy
You can also apply ice packs on the injured area to reduce pain and limit the damage to the tendons. Repeat the process for at least 20 minutes 5-6 times daily. Also, do not directly apply the ice on your skin as it could elevate the irritation.
- Physical Therapy
Physical therapy, including ultrasound, laser, water therapy, and a personalized exercise program, will make your daily activities easier. Performing specific stretches and exercises will improve your flexibility, increase your mobility, and prevent the risk of re-injury of your elbow joints.
Painkillers: Many painkillers, like paracetamol, can help soothe the pain.
NSAIDs: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that aid in easing the swelling, stiffness, and pain caused by tendonitis. Some topical anti-inflammatory creams and gels are directly applied to the affected area to reduce inflammation.
Corticosteroid Injections: Steroid injections are generally injected directly into the affected joint to ease the swelling and pain. However, the short-term effect might cause adverse effects when used for a long time.
PRP Injections: Platelet-rich plasma injection is a part of regenerative medicine that involves your blood. The proteins and growth factors heal the injury in tendons and accelerate recovery.
Surgery is the last and rarely suggested step in treating elbow tendonitis, which is typically suggested if your symptoms do not resolve even after six to eight weeks after non-surgical approaches. Arthroscopic surgery is minimally invasive and has a lower risk of complications, allowing patients to return home on the same day.
After the surgical procedure, the patient can return to their daily lifestyle within 2-6 weeks. If the patient is an athlete or sports, they can start training after 4 or 6 months. The recovery period solely depends on the severity of the condition.
Elbow tendonitis refers to tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow that cause pain and inflammation in the tendon or surrounding region.
It is the way your body indicates to you that you are putting too much stress on the joints and muscles. The treatment for elbow tendonitis will be opted based on the symptoms and type of tendonitis. Hence ensure the diagnosis of the condition at the early stage.
Initially, your healthcare provider might recommend home treatments like rice, ice packs, and medication to ease inflammation. Surgery will be recommended to avoid further consequences when the symptoms are not improved. In addition, implementing preventive measures and a healthy exercise regime will improve the overall functionality of your musculoskeletal system.