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Pain Management Health Center

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Elbow Pain

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  • Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)

    The lateral epicondyle is the outside bony portion of the elbow where large tendons attach to the elbow from the muscles of the forearm. These tendons can be injured, especially with repetitive motions of the forearm, such as using a manual screwdriver, washing windows, or hitting a backhand in tennis play. Tennis elbow is caused by inflammation of the tendons. Usually, the pain is on the outside of the elbow and might be accompanied by warmth and swelling. The elbow maintains its full range of motion, as the inner joint is not affected, and the pain is usually more noticeable toward the end of the day. Repeated twisting motions or activities that strain the tendon typically cause more pain. X-rays are usually normal, but can reveal calcium deposits in the tendon or other abnormalities of the elbow joint.

    The treatment of tennis elbow includes ice packs, resting the involved elbow, aspirin and anti-inflammatory medications like naproxen (Naprosyn), diclofenac (Voltaren), and ibuprofen (Motrin). Bracing the elbow can help. Simple braces for tennis elbow can be found in community pharmacies and athletic goods stores. Local cortisone injections are given for persistent pain. You can gradually resume activity while icing the area to prevent recurring inflammation. Occasionally, supportive straps can prevent reinjury. In severe cases, surgery might be recommended.
  • Medial Epicondylitis (Golfer's Elbow)

    Medial epicondylitis is inflammation at the point where the tendons of the forearm attach to the bony prominence of the inner elbow. As an example, this tendon can become strained in a golf swing, but many other repetitive motions can injure the tendon. Golfer's elbow is characterized by local pain and tenderness over the inner elbow. The range of motion of the elbow is preserved because the inner joint of the elbow is not affected. Those activities which require twisting or straining the forearm tendon can elicit pain and worsen the condition. X-rays for epicondylitis are usually normal but can show calcifications of the tendons if the tendinitis has persisted for long periods of time.

    The usual treatment involves ice packs, resting the elbow, and medications including aspirin and other NSAIDs, including naproxen (Naprosyn), diclofenac (Voltaren), and ibuprofen (Motrin). With severe inflammation, local corticosteroid (cortisone ) injections are sometimes given. Using a strap can prevent reinjury. After a gradual rehabilitation exercise program, you can return to normal activities while continuing to ice the area to prevent recurring inflammation.

Olecranon Bursitis

Olecranon bursitis (inflammation of the bursa at the tip of the elbow) can occur from injury or minor trauma, as a result of systemic diseases such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis, or can be due to a local infection. Olecranon bursitis is typically associated with swelling over the tip of the elbow, while range of motion of the inner elbow joint is maintained.

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