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Why Does My Elbow Hurt? 3 Common Causes of Elbow Pain and What to Do for Each

elbow pain relief with physical therapy Jun29th 2021

Our elbows do a lot for us: opening and closing doors, lifting and carrying, twisting and turning, and so on.  It’s no wonder that sometimes our elbows get overused or mistreated.  With so many actions our elbows perform, there are also many reasons you might be experiencing elbow pain.

Knowing why your elbow is hurting can be critical when deciding how best to treat it.  Whether you are choosing which home remedy to try or deciding where to make a medical appointment, knowing what might be causing your elbow pain is important information.  Here are some of the most common causes of elbow pain:

1. Tendinitis

Tendinitis is pain caused by the inflammation of tendons.  Most people with tendinitis describe it as aching, dull pain, or tenderness.  Since tendons attach your bones to your muscles, pain caused by tendinitis is usually worsened by moving the joint.

Tendinitis is known as a “wear and tear” or “repetitive stress” injury because it is usually caused by one repeated motion over time.  There are two main types of tendinitis elbow injuries. Tennis elbow, which is tendinitis pain on the outside of the elbow, is a product of repetitive twisting and rotating of the wrist/forearm, like swinging a racquet or a hammer or turning wrenches or screwdrivers. Golfer’s elbow occurs on the inside of the elbow and is a product of excessive gripping and flexing of the wrist.  Golfer’s elbow is commonly caused by actions like swinging bats, throwing balls, or lifting weights.

For both types of elbow tendinitis, the best place to start is rest and ice to reduce swelling (even if you cannot see any external swelling).  When using ice, always use a buffer, such as a towel, between the cold pack and your skin.  Apply ice for about 15 minutes at a time to avoid damaging your skin.  You can also reduce pain by improving your ergonomics, which employs postures and motions that are easier on your joints.

We help people with tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow all the time, so call us to schedule a free consultation.  A therapist can talk to you about your pain and help you figure out the right path to follow to get you back to living life pain-free!

2. Strains and Sprains

If you think you just “overdid it,” the culprit of your elbow pain is probably a strain or a sprain.  Strains are when you work the muscle too hard, causing it to stretch or tear.  Sprains are similar, except it is stretching or tearing in your ligaments instead of your muscles.  These are common in sports and other types of physical activity that put stress on your elbows (such as yard work or moving boxes).

If you think you have a strain or a sprain, the best place to start is rest and ice to allow the injury to heal.  Again, with ice, be sure to use a buffer between the cold and your skin and don’t leave the ice pack on longer than 15 minutes.

With strains and sprains, physical therapy is a critical component of recovery.  Your therapist will help you build back your strength, improve your range of motion, and teach you to use your elbow in a way that helps you avoid future injuries.  Rehabilitation after strains and sprains is our bread and butter here at TherapyWorks.  We do it all the time on every joint you can think of, including lots of elbows.  Call us to get started with a free consultation!

3. Arthritis

Arthritis can also cause pain in the elbow as well as other joints.  Depending on the type of arthritis, patients may experience different sensations, such as stiffness, aching, or burning.  Unlike strains or sprains, arthritic pain almost always comes on gradually.  And unlike tendinitis, arthritis is not the result of a single motion you do a lot.  While an injury may speed up the process, arthritis usually begins subtly and worsens over time.

Ice or heat can help relieve pain, just be sure to use a buffer between the temperature source and your skin.  Don’t use either for more than 15 minutes at a time to avoid damaging your skin.

For long-term improvement, try physical therapy for your arthritis!  Physical therapy can help increase your range of motion, decrease your pain, and get back to living life the way you want.  Give us a call to schedule a free consultation with one of our therapists.

Get started on elbow pain relief today!

If you’re sick and tired of spending every day in pain, know that this isn’t how you have to continue the rest of your life. Contact our clinic in Lawrence, KS today to schedule an appointment with a physical therapist, and learn how you can begin to heal in a safe and healthy way — from the inside out.

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