Arthritis of the Elbow
As with all joints, movement of the elbow is permitted by smooth cartilage that allows for minimum friction when the joint moves. The elbow allows for a crucial function: the placement of the hand. Unfortunately, as a result of injury, wear and tear, and other conditions, arthritis can develop when that cartilage breaks down. Cartilage doesn’t heal when damaged, so the body attempts to heal by making more bone, resulting in irregular joints and/or bone spurs. Arthritis is often accompanied by dull pain with motion or activity, which may progress over time, as well as stiffness and swelling. In order to relieve pain and restore function, we start with conservative approaches like physical therapy or steroid injections.
A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that reduces friction between tendons and bones. Bursitis is caused by inflammation of the bursa; bursitis of the elbow could be a result of a direct blow or injury to the bursa, repetitive pressure on the elbow, or when paired with underlying conditions such as psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis. Symptoms of bursitis include pain or burning in the elbow, loss of elbow motion, weakness (especially as the pain increases), tightness, and localized swelling or redness of the elbow. Conservative treatment options for elbow bursitis can include medication to reduce discomfort, nonsteroidal medication, drainage, and injections.
An elbow dislocation occurs when the bones of the forearm move out of place compared with the bones of the upper arm; this can happen with any of the three bones of the elbow, the humerus, the radius, or the ulna. A dislocation also tends to involve damage to surrounding ligaments and sometimes damage to bone. The most common cause of an elbow dislocation is a fall with an outstretched arm or trauma. Depending on the severity of the injury and the bones involved, signs of a dislocated elbow can include bruising, a deformed-looking arm in which the bone looks out of place, weakness in the joint, inability to move the elbow, pain, and swelling. While some dislocated elbows return to their usual position on their own, more severe injuries may need a doctor to return the bones to proper position. Treatment for an elbow dislocation includes manipulation, in which your doctor returns the bones to their normal position, known as a joint reduction, along with medication, rest, and physical therapy.
An elbow fracture is a break in the bony tip of the elbow, called the olecranon. Without much protection from muscles or other tissues, the olecranon can break easily when hit by a direct blow or by a fall on an outstretched arm. Signs of an elbow fracture include sudden, intense pain with inability to straighten the elbow, swelling and bruising around the elbow, tenderness to touch, and pain with movement of the elbow. Treatment depends on the fracture pattern, displacement, and joint involvement. Non-surgical treatment for an elbow fracture may include immobilization to hold the elbow in place during healing, followed by physical therapy.
Lateral Epicondylitis/Tennis Elbow
Lateral epicondylitis, known as Tennis Elbow, is a type of tendonitis affecting the elbow and arm. Despite its name, tennis elbow can be caused by any repetitive gripping activities, including the obvious tennis, as well as weight lifting, carpentry, painting, and more. The gripping motion can strain muscles over time and put stress on the tendons, resulting in pain in the elbow that can radiate into the upper or lower arm. Symptoms of tennis elbow include pain, tenderness, stiffness, weakness, numbness, or tingling. Conservative treatment for tennis elbow includes medication, bracing, and injections.