Elbow Pain and Treatment

There are a number of conditions that can cause elbow pain. Though there are several possible causes of elbow injuries, they are most common in athletes who play sports like tennis or baseball, where repetitive arm movements are required.

These are some of the most common causes of elbow pain that we treat in our office.

Elbow Bursitis

A thin, slippery sac called a bursa is located between the skin and the pointy bone in the back of the elbow. The bursa acts as a cushion between the skin and the bone, allowing the skin to move freely over the bone. The bursa can become inflamed due to trauma, prolonged pressure, or infection, causing a condition called bursitis. Bursitis can cause the elbow to swell, which can result in pain and may restrict elbow motion.

Surgery is rarely needed for bursitis. If the inflammation is caused by an infection, your doctor may recommend aspirating, or removing, fluid from the bursa. Anti-inflammatory medications and corticosteroid injections may also help. If conservative treatment does not help, surgery may be needed to remove the infected bursa. The bursa usually grows back after several months and functions normally.

Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow is an overuse injury. With repetitive motion, the tendons that join the forearm muscles to the outside of the elbow can become inflamed. Although it is most common among tennis players, any activity that requires repetitive use of the forearm muscle can result in tennis elbow. Those with tennis elbow often experience pain or a burning sensation on the outside part of the affected elbow. In some cases, patients may find that their grip strength has weakened.

The majority of patients (80-90%) can recover from tennis elbow with conservative treatment including activity modifications, rest, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and corticosteroid injections. If a patient's symptoms do not improve after several months of conservative management, surgery may be recommended. There are multiple surgical procedures available to address tennis elbow, including open and arthroscopic procedures. Physicians at Beaumont Bone and Joint are the first in Southeast Texas to perform the Tenex procedure, a minimally invasive procedure using ultrasonic energy to remove the diseased tendon.

Golfer’s Elbow

Golfer’s elbow is similar to tennis elbow, but it affects the tendon that attaches to the inner portion of the elbow, rather than the outer portion. While it is most common among golfer’s, any activity or sport that puts repetitive stress on the tendon can cause golfer’s elbow.

In most cases of golfer’s elbow, surgery is not needed. Nonsurgical treatment involves rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy. If symptoms do not improve after several months of treatment, surgery may be recommended.

UCL Injury

The ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) is a ligament on the inside of the elbow that connects the upper arm bone to one of the forearm bones. The UCL can stretch, fray, or tear with repetitive throwing motions, and is therefore common in baseball pitchers. Elbow pain is a common symptom, and swelling or bruising may be present if the ligament is torn. Some patients experience a catching, popping, or grinding sensation.

In most cases, a UCL injury can be treated without surgery. Nonsurgical treatment may include rest, activity modification, ice, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy. If nonsurgical treatment does not relieve symptoms, surgery may be recommended to remove damaged tissue or reattach the torn ligament.

Elbow Arthritis

Over time, the cartilage that lines the elbow joint can wear down, leading to pain and reduced range of motion in the elbow. This is known as arthritis. Elbow arthritis most often occurs in those who have had a previous elbow injury or who participate in activities that stress the elbow, like pitching. Arthritis can cause a grating or locking sensation in the elbow, and swelling may occur as the condition progresses.

In the early stages of elbow arthritis, conservative treatment like medications, physical therapy, and activity modification may be helpful in managing symptoms. Corticosteroid injections may also be helpful for pain relief. If nonsurgical treatment does not relieve symptoms, surgical options are available. Arthroscopy may be used to smooth out the surfaces of the joint and remove any loose or inflamed tissue. If the joint surface is severely damaged, an elbow replacement may be recommended.

Elbow Pain Treatment in Beaumont, TX

Our highly skilled physicians are trained in a variety of orthopedic conditions, including the treatment of elbow pain. If you have any questions about a particular condition or treatment, or would like to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians for an evaluation, please contact our Beaumont office at (409) 838-0346 or our Port Arthur office at (409) 729-5633, or use our convenient appointment request form.