Elbow pain should never stop you from participating in the activities you love, though elbow tendonitis can be a major obstacle. Elbow tendonitis is a common condition that occurs from overuse of the elbow, and comes along with pain and a variety of other symptoms. Continue reading to learn about elbow tendonitis and how it can be treated.
Tendonitis in the elbow is caused by inflammation of the tendons that run through the forearm to the elbow. When you overuse your arm playing tennis, golf, or other repetitive motions, it can cause microscopic tears to the muscles and tendons resulting in swelling and pain. Tendonitis in elbow is the most common cause of elbow pain.
Types of Elbow Tendonitis
Two major types of elbow tendonitis are tennis and golfer’s elbow. While similar, they each come with a few key differences that are worth taking note of.
Tennis elbow tendonitis, also known as lateral epicondylitis, involves the Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis (ECRB) muscle and tendon. Suffers describe the pain on the inner elbow, which develops gradually and does not occur overnight.
This type typically occurs with those who frequently grip with their thumb and first two fingers. It is most common in people who play tennis, weight lifting, carpentry, and other similar activities.
Golfer’s elbow or medial epicondylitis is very similar to tennis elbow, but the differentiating factor is where the pain occurs. With this type of medial elbow tendonitis, the tendons connected to the epicondyle are inflamed, which causes pain on the outside of your elbow.
What Causes Tendonitis in the Elbow
Tendonitis in the elbow can be caused by many different factors. Since the symptoms appear gradually it can be difficult to discern the cause. If you fall into one of these three categories, it may be the contributing cause of your elbow tendonitis.
The most common cause of elbow tendonitis is overuse. Repeated movements begin to wear the muscles and tendons in your forearm. This causes microscopic tears in the muscle, which causes pain and inflammation. Begin slowly if you are starting an exercise program that involves significant elbow mobility.
The most common age for developing elbow tendonitis is between 30-50 years old. However, elbow tendonitis can occur at any age.
As you would expect, tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow can be caused by their respective sports. However, elbow tendonitis can be caused by a long list of different activities. The most common perpetrators are weightlifting, carpentry, or any activity that requires repetitive motion while holding a strong grip.
Elbow Tendonitis Symptoms
Symptoms of tendonitis in elbow appear gradually. The pain normally occurs in your dominant arm but can happen in either. If you have any of these symptoms of elbow tendonitis check with your doctor to find out the next steps.
Pain and tenderness in the elbow and forearm.
Grip strength is weakened.
Numbness or tingling in the arm and fingers.
Stiffness in your elbow.
Elbow Tendonitis Diagnosis
Getting a diagnosis from your doctor will be the first step on your path to a full recovery. Your doctor will take a full health history and perform a physical exam. Be ready to tell your doctor your symptoms, when they occur, and exactly where you experience pain or discomfort.
An x-ray will provide a clear picture of the bones in the elbow and arm. It will help your doctor rule out arthritis.
Electromyography (EMG) will rule out nerve compression in your arm and wrist, which are often confused with elbow tendonitis.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) provides the best soft tissue pictures for your doctor. These images will help your doctor determine the next steps for your treatment.
Elbow Tendonitis Treatment
With a wide range of treatments available, finding a safe and effective path to elbow tendonitis recovery doesn't have to be a struggle. See all of the best options below.
A tendonitis elbow brace or strap will provide support and compression right where you need it. If you are looking for the definitive guide on the best elbow brace for tendonitis you’ve come to the right place.
Adjustable elbow braces are a great option for people who need maximum support with customized compression. An elbow brace for tendonitis should supply adequate compression and be easy to use. This elbow brace fits that description!
Sleek, slim, and effective--enjoy all the benefits of a quality compression sleeve. ( See Product at Amazon )
Are you looking for uniform elbow tendonitis compression that isn’t bulky and can easily fit under clothes? Then a compression sleeve is what you need. These sleeves deliver compression to your arm and elbow which reduces inflammation.
Elbow Tendonitis Exercises
Starting stretches and exercises for elbow tendonitis at home will speed up your recovery. Start slowly and listen to your body if you begin to experience pain. We have chosen these three exercises for tendonitis in elbow to heal your pain.
Elbow Tendonitis Stretch
Step 1: Place your affected arm in front of you with palm down.
Step 2: Use your non-affected arm and gently pull down on your hand. Do this stretch 2-3 times for 30 seconds.
Step 3: With arm still straight in front of you, turn palm upward and gently pull your hand down. Do this stretch 2-3 times for 30 seconds.
Elbow Tendonitis Exercise
Step 1: Grab a light weight, either 3 or 5 lbs.
Step 2: Place your affected arm over the edge of a counter or bench.
Step 3: While holding the weight, face your palm up and flex your wrist toward your body.
Step 4: Flip over your forearm and extend your wrist up toward your body.
Step 5: With your palm still facing downward, move your hand from side to side.
Step 6: Rotate your wrist in a circle with the weight in hand.
Do each of these exercises 20 times.
Eccentric Wrist Exercise
Step 1: Grab a light weight.
Step 2: Place your affected arm with your wrist hanging down over a bench or counter.
Step 3: Slowly pull your affected hand up to extend your wrist and hold for one second.
Step 4: Allow your hand to slowly drop down to the starting position.
Icing your elbow is a great at-home therapy. An ice pack will reduce swelling and pain in your arm and elbow. It is best to use ice immediately after an activity that aggravates your injury and to only do it for 20 to 30 minutes at a time.
NSAIDs are medications that reduce inflammation without the side effects of true steroids. Ibuprofen and naproxen are two over the counter medications that you can take to help reduce your pain and swelling.
Surgery is the last resort for elbow tendonitis. If symptoms do not improve within six to twelve months surgery is typically recommended. The surgery involves removal of the damaged tendon or muscle with reattachment of healthy muscle or tendon back to the bone.
As with all surgeries, there are risks. Infection, loss of strength, nerve or muscle damage are all possibilities that your surgeon will discuss with you before the operation.
Elbow Tendonitis Recovery
In standard elbow tendonitis surgery, patients can expect to go home the same day. Your arm will be immobilized for approximately one week using a splint.
Once the splint is removed elbow tendonitis rehab will begin! You will be given a set of stretching exercises to regain flexibility in your arm and elbow. If recovery has gone well you will be able to start exercise after four to six months.
Healing Elbow Tendonitis
In most cases, elbow tendonitis can be healed with rest, ice, and over the counter pain medications. If these therapies are not effective take a look at our extensive list of braces, exercises, and so much more. Learn as much as possible about treating tendonitis in elbow and you will have a huge head start on a quick recovery!
Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.
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