If you are experiencing elbow pain, it can be difficult to determine when you should seek medical care. Many elbow conditions and injuries can heal on their own at home, while some require medical attention to stop the damage or progression of the problem.
In this article, we discuss various causes of elbow pain and when you should seek medical care for it.
Sprains, Strains, and Contusions
Acute injuries like sprains and strains are caused by the stretching and tearing of soft tissues. Sprains involve damage to ligaments, while strains affect muscles and tendons. Contusions are caused by blunt force trauma to the body, crushing the soft tissues underneath the skin.
Aside from taking pain medication, the RICE method (rest, ice therapy, compression, and elevation) is usually a sufficient treatment for a mildly injured elbow. However, more severe cases require medical care. If you notice symptoms are not subsiding after a couple of days, if your pain is severe, or if you see a physical deformity in the area, it’s time to see a doctor.
Tendinitis is tendon inflammation caused by repeated aggravation and stress. Pain, swelling, and tenderness of the joint area are usual symptoms. Rest, medication, and splinting may treat tendonitis. However, persistent inflammation may require medical care to avoid damage to the tendon.
Bursitis is the inflammation of a bursa due to overuse. Bursae are jelly-like sacs containing fluid that help reduce friction between bones and soft tissues.
The swelling of the bursa causes pain and restriction of movement. Although treatable with activity changes and anti-inflammatory medications, severe cases may require draining or removal.
Medial and Lateral Epicondylitis
Medial epicondylitis, also known as golfer’s elbow, is damage to the tendon used to bend the wrist toward the palm. Lateral epicondylitis, or tennis elbow, affects the tendon supporting the opposite movement.
Activities requiring excessive force to bend the wrist cause epicondylitis. Pain that worsens over time and swelling in these tendons are common symptoms. While symptoms may be mild at first, they will continue to worsen if you don’t give the elbow adequate rest or pace the stress you put on it. If your pain is severe or a frequent occurrence, it’s time to see a doctor.
Arthritis is a chronic condition of the joints. Osteoarthritis, the most common form of the disease, occurs when the cartilage at the ends of bones wears down. Associated symptoms include pain, swelling, tenderness, weakness, and grating sounds when moving the joint.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disorder caused by the immune system attacking tissues by mistake. Stiffness, swelling, pain, and joint deformity are common symptoms.
Damage from arthritis of both types is permanent, and treatment consists of keeping pain under control and restoring joint function. Arthritis is one condition that requires medical care even in its early stages. Your doctor can help slow down the progression of arthritis and help you find relief for as long as possible using cutting-edge treatments.
A fracture refers to a broken bone. They can range from microscopic stress fractures to fully broken bones. A snap or cracking sound is usually the first indication, followed by severe pain.
Fractures of all sizes require immediate medical care. Regardless of how small or mild a fracture is, it can lead to complications from potential damage to the bone and surrounding tissues. Seeing a doctor helps you avoid further damage, pain, and complications. Not getting medical treatment for a fracture can lead to permanent deformity of the impacted bones.
When To See An Orthopedic Doctor
In general, when home remedies are ineffective, scheduling an appointment with an elbow specialist is recommended. The goal of medical care for elbow conditions is to alleviate pain and restore function.
Associated Orthopaedics recommends seeking a specialist if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Pain that persists despite rest or medication
- Swelling or inflammation
- Stiffness or restricted flexion/extension of the elbow
- Numbness or tingling in the arm
Elbow Pain Treatment In Eastern Tennessee
For any concerns related to elbow pain, contact the expert providers at Associated Orthopaedics for complete orthopedic care in Kingsport, Tennessee. Call us at (423) 245-3161, or schedule an appointment with our online form. We look forward to being your orthopedic care partner.