The elbow is held together by tendons which are susceptible to swelling in a condition known as tendonitis. Tendons are the tissues that connect bone to muscle. Overuse can lead to damage of those tendons and also swelling of those tendons. Injury of the elbow may also lead to tendonitis. Those in a certain line of work are more susceptible to this condition than others. Tendons are all over the body, but tendonitis is common in the elbow region. Tendonitis is not life threatening and with rest, you can get back to normal.
The elbow is one of many joints in the body. It is made of three bones total: ulna, radius, and humerus. Connective tissue allows the elbow to operate properly. The tendons are important because if there is no muscle in the forearm connecting to the elbow, you would not be able to move your elbow. There are two types of tendonitis in the elbow. The common terms are golfers elbow and tennis elbow. The medical terms are medial and lateral epicondylitis. Both are a result of elbow overuse. The only difference is the location of the problem. Medial epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow) is damage to the tendon in the elbow. Lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) is damage to the tendon on the outside of the elbow.
If you play sports, you have probably dealt with tendonitis at least once in your life. Tendonitis of the elbow affects nearly 50% of sports players that use their elbow. Golfers, pitchers, and tennis players have probably suffered from tendonitis more than anyone else. Weight lifters are also a part of that group. Falling on your elbow may also cause tendonitis. A fall can damage the tissues in the elbow and leave you with scar tissue that doesn’t help with tendonitis. Tears and pulls in the tendon are very painful and takes s ome time to recover. Tennis elbow is named because it is most often found in tennis players. The constant twist and flexing of the wrist lead to tendonitis. Golfer’s elbow is named because of its association with golfers.
Golfers do not twist their wrist much, but they move their elbow a lot. This condition is not as common as tennis elbow but happens among those who work in professions like construction or cleaning.
There are several risk factors for tendonitis. Arthritis is a major one. Inflammation of the elbow joint can put stress on the tendon. This stress causes inflammation. There are many different types of arthritis, but they all create the same problem in the elbow. Medical conditions like gout may also cause tendonitis in the elbow. Gout is another form of arthritis that leads to swelling in joints. Thyroid disorders are another medical problem. Thyroid problems affect your bones. When your thyroid is not functioning properly, your joints may suffer. When you put excess stress on your elbow all of a sudden, that will also lead to tendonitis. For example, you cannot think just because you were a pitcher in high school you can play baseball now after 20 years. You may still be able to pitch some, but you are setting yourself up for tendonitis. Infection in rare cases is also a risk factor for tendonitis. Infections like rabies or gonorrhea have been connected with tendonitis.
Tendonitis in most cases causes pain. The elbow will become stiff and sore. It may even begin to tingle and become weak. Pain due to injury happens suddenly and all at once. Sometimes pain starts as subtle and increases to more severe. In arthritis related tendonitis, pain typically increases like this. You will still have motion in the elbow, but it may be limited. If you play sports, you should make sure to stretch first. If you are just getting back into the gym and working out, do not try to max out. Start off slow. When you put too much pressure on your joints too fast, you cause tendonitis. If your profession requires a lot of elbow use, make sure to take times and rest. If you feel pain, ice your elbow. Do not continue to work through the pain.
Treatment for tendonitis is simple. Rest and ice are the best. If you are doing something that is causing the pain, take a break. Do not keep using your elbow if it is hurting you. Wearing a brace can help stabilize the elbow and remind you to rest it. Over the counter medication takes away the swelling and pain sometimes. If you are still feeling a lot of pain, corticosteroid shots or physical therapy may be necessary. If that doesn’t work, then surgery is the last option.
Tendonitis of the elbow is common, and most people ignore the symptoms and continue doing what they are doing. Tendonitis is not a serious condition, but if it is not treated, it can cause you a great deal of pain. For those who play sports, make sure you are using good form and taking care of your joints the way you should. At any sign of pain, you should rest and ice. Don’t work your elbows til they run out of grease. Take care of them, and you will be able to perform better in your job.
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