A common cause of elbow pain in adults is tendonitis, an inflammation and injury to the tendons – soft tissues that attach muscle to bone. People who perform repetitive movements of their wrist or elbow are likely to develop a condition called tennis elbow (pain on the outer side of the elbow) or golfer’s elbow (pain on the inner side of the elbow). The pain can persist for some time. As tendons are slow to heal in some cases, persisting pain may be present for a year or more. Tendonitis is a self limiting condition which can also heal spontaneously.
If you have tendonitis around the elbow you should rest the affected arm as much as possible and avoid any activities that put more stress on the tendons, take anti-inflammatory painkillers to reduce inflammation. If your elbow symptoms persist, physiotherapy may be recommended. In rare cases of severe, persistent elbow pain, surgery may be considered. However, only a small percentage of patients diagnosed with tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow ultimately require surgical treatment.
Treatment: Elbow surgery
For tennis elbow an incision is made over the outside of the joint. The location of the tendon damage is identified, and this portion of the tendon is removed. The underlying bone is exposed, and blood flow to this region is stimulated.
For golfer’s elbow an incision is made on the inside of the elbow joint.
After surgery, a sterile bandage is placed on the elbow. Stitches are removed after about 10 – 14 days and you will be encouraged to use your elbow as much as possible. You will be able to start moving your elbow normally two days after the surgery. Depending of what type of work you do you may need up to 3 weeks off work. Full recovery may take three months.
Young children commonly develop pulled elbow usually when someone has pulled on their straightened arm. The bones are stretched apart momentarily and a ligament slips in between, where it becomes trapped when the bones try to snap back into place. Children will usually quietly refuse to use the arm, but often cry out with any attempt to bend or straighten the elbow. This condition is also called an elbow subluxation (a partial dislocation).
Other common causes of elbow pain are: bursitis (inflammation of a fluid-filled cushion beneath the skin at the tip of the elbow usually caused by leaning on the elbow) and arthritis (narrowing of the joint space and loss of cartilage in the elbow) due to various reasons.