Degeneration of the elbow leads to pain and loss of movement. The elbow is a joint held together by different types of connective tissues. Cartilage separates the three bones that make up the elbow. Cartilage acts not only as a cushion by like shock absorbers for the elbow joint. When bones rub together, it is not a good thing and causes a lot of pain. Elbow degeneration is not a degradation of the skin that forms around the elbow but the destruction of the cartilage that cushions the elbow. Treatment for this problem is dependent upon the severity of the degradation.
The bone that we feel and call our elbow is not one bone at all. The elbow is made of the ulna, radius, and humerus. The bone we feel when we bend the elbow is the ulna. The bones we feel on the side of the elbow is the humerus. Cartilage keeps these bones from friction. The rubbing together of bones is very uncomfortable. The more you use your elbow, the more likely you are to cause elbow degeneration.
Profession and Causes of Degeneration
Athletes are extremely susceptible to elbow degeneration. They overwork the elbow joint, and they tend to injure it by falling or getting hit on the elbow. Elbow degeneration is not restricted to athletes. There are others like construction workers, painters, and maids who use their elbows daily. As you age, your body starts to breakdown unless you keep it healthy. Age is a major factor for elbow degeneration. Cartilage naturally wears away as you age, especially if you have arthritis.
Arthritis and Degeneration
Arthritis is the inflammation of the joints. Arthritis is the main factor for elbow degeneration. There are many different types of arthritis, but they all have the same effect on the joint. Arthritis can be hereditary or acquired. Rheumatoid arthritis is a hereditary immune disease. The immune system attacks the joints causing swelling and pain. If you are an athlete or have a profession that requires the use of your elbow a lot, you may develop arthritis. Persistent elbow injuries put you at risk for degeneration by arthritis.
Symptoms of degeneration include pain and stiffness. Pain is a major symptom. The pain may cause you not to use your elbow at all. You will also have a lot of swelling in that area. The stiffness limits your range of motion. Simple activities may be difficult to complete. The worst of the pain is felt at night. Laying on your arm a certain way may cause a great deal of discomfort. In rare cases, your elbow becomes locked into place. You cannot move it all. This is a result of broken pieces of cartilage getting lodged in between the elbow joints.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Elbow degeneration is diagnosed through a physical examination. The doctor will get a background on when the pain started as well as how severe the pain is. They may also ask about your profession. They will move the elbow joint around to see at what points you feel pain and examine your range of motion. An X-ray will be taken to look at the bones and see if there is any cartilage left in the bone. They can also examine if there are broken pieces of cartilage.
Treatment is dependent upon the severity of the problem. Non-surgical methods can treat mild deterioration. These methods include medication and physical therapy. A lot of time medication gets rid of the inflammation and helps ease the pain. Therapy will increase your range of motion. A physical therapist may also help you with ways to avoid doing further damage. A lot of doctors will also do corticosteroid shots. The shots are extremely beneficial initially. Once they wear off, you have to come back for another one. When there is severe degeneration, surgery is necessary. There are several types of surgery that are helpful. One form of surgery, which is the least invasive of them all, is elbow arthroscopy. Small incisions are made in the arm, and an arthroscope is placed in these holes to remove loose particles and smooth out any broken cartilage. In severe cases, a whole joint replacement is necessary. The doctor replaces the old cartilage with completely new cartilage. If bones are deteriorated, bone reconstruction is necessary.
Degeneration of the elbow is painful, and when you have arthritis, it is almost unavoidable. The elbow is a joint that typically goes unnoticed until you cannot use it anymore. Sports athletes commonly experience elbow degeneration. There is no for sure way to prevent elbow degeneration, but rest and ice are helpful. The body usually gives us signs that something is wrong, or we are overworking it. If you are experiencing a lot of elbow pain, you should take time away from whatever is causing the pain. Don’t be afraid to see a doctor when the pain is ongoing. An early diagnosis makes for a better outcome and easier treatment.
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