The elbow joint can be prone to overuse injuries resulting in inflammation, tenderness and decreased range of motion. The elbow can also suffer from fractures, dislocations and trapped nerves.
Often patients with chronic elbow pain come to us after trying ice, anti-inflammatory medications, Kinesio tape on the elbow and other conservative treatments. When these methods are not successful, we may recommend prolotherapy.
The elbow is a complex joint made up of multiple ligaments and tendons. Chronic elbow pain can result from injury or from overuse. Proper diagnosis and treatment from an expert can prevent damage to the important joint and reduce discomfort, numbness, or stiffness.
The first step to addressing elbow pain is usually rest. This means avoiding activities that cause pain and applying ice to the area. You can also take over-the-counter pain relievers, like ibuprofen or naproxen.
Other diagnostic tests your doctor may order include X-rays to see if you have an open or displaced fracture, or MRI scans that provide clear images of the soft tissues in the body, including muscles and tendons. They can also help determine if you have a tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, or trapped nerves in the elbow.
If non-surgical methods fail, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove damaged tissue. This is generally performed arthroscopically through small cuts in the elbow joint.
You may be familiar with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) from taking over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) or naproxen (Aleve). These drugs help reduce the swelling and inflammation that causes tennis elbow.
NSAIDs are also available in topical creams, gels and patches that are applied directly to the site of pain. Unlike oral NSAIDs, which can cause stomach upset and cardiovascular issues, topical NSAIDs do not have these side effects.
If you are interested in trying topical NSAIDs to treat your elbow pain, check with your doctor or pharmacist to ensure the medication will be safe for you. It is important to inform them of any medications you are currently taking, both prescription and OTC, including dietary supplements and herbs. You should also let them know if you have kidney disease or liver disease or if you are at risk for these conditions due to a family history of them. This will allow them to monitor you more closely for potential problems.
Steroid injections help control inflammation, which decreases pain and swelling. The injection contains a combination of corticosteroid medication and an anesthetic to provide immediate pain relief. It is injected directly into the bursa, a fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion between tendons, bones, and joints. Your healthcare provider cleans the area and may use a special device to find the right spot for the injection. You might feel some brief, mild pain with the procedure.
An X-ray machine showing moving images on a screen can help your healthcare provider guide the needle to the right spot. Your healthcare provider might also inject a dye to make sure the medicine goes into the correct place. If you are allergic to a contrast dye, you may not be able to have this procedure. Getting too many injections in the same joint can break down cartilage, so you should only get three or four injections per year.
If your elbow pain is severe and non-surgical treatment options have not relieved it, your doctor may recommend elbow replacement surgery (termed total elbow arthroplasty). This replaces the damaged elbow joint with an artificial one.
During the operation, your doctor makes an incision on the back of your elbow. He removes the arthritic surfaces of your elbow bone (humerus) and forearm bone (ulna). He places an artificial hinge into place by cementing metal stems on a plastic liner into your humerus and ulna. This creates a functional, pain-free elbow joint.
After surgery, your doctor prescribes physical therapy to reduce pain and strengthen muscles in the arm, forearm and wrist. You should avoid heavy lifting and pushing against resistance with your elbow until your doctor says it is safe.
Like any surgical procedure, elbow replacement can lead to complications. Infection can happen in the wound or deeper around the artificial joint and will require antibiotics to treat. Excessive wear or loosening of the implant can also require more surgery to correct.
Allow elbow pain to stop restricting your daily activities and degrading your quality of life. LifeSpan Medicine’s committed team of healthcare Los Angeles Elbow Pain treatment Doctor specialists is committed to assisting you in receiving the treatment you need.