Elbow Pain: Overuse Injuries
Overuse injures can cause pain and other problems in the elbow, forearm, wrist and hand. These injuries typically affect athletes and people who perform repetitive motions, but can happen in patients of all ages. Children and adolescents, whose bones have not yet matured, and factory workers are particularly susceptible to overuse injuries.
Two of the most common overuse injuries of the elbow are tennis elbow and golfer's elbow.
Symptoms include pain or tenderness on the outside of the elbow. You do not have to be a tennis player or have played tennis to develop tennis elbow. Tennis elbow is caused by the overuse of the forearm muscles that are used to straighten and raise your hand and wrist. Repetitive motions, such as swinging a tennis racket or painting, can cause stress and tiny tears in the tendons that attach the forearm muscles to the bony prominence at the outside of your elbow.
Symptoms include pain or tenderness on the inner side of the elbow. Like with tennis elbow, you do not have to be a golfer to develop golfer's elbow. Golfer's elbow is caused by damage to the tendons that control your wrist and fingers and allow you to grip, rotate your arm, and flex your wrist. Any activity that requires repetitive bending of your elbow can cause this condition.
What causes an overuse injury?
Repetitive motions such as overhand throwing, pushing or pulling, twisting or bending the arm can place severe stress on the bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles of the arm and elbow. Over time, this stress can cause damage, pain and eventually, scarring of the tendon. Because tendons have a poor blood supply, healing can be difficult.
Types of Overuse Injuries
Some overuse injuries are so commonly caused by specific activities that they are referred to by that name. Some examples are tennis elbow, golfer's elbow, student's elbow and Little League elbow.
Overuse injuries can cause a variety of symptoms, including pain, swelling, tenderness, weakness, tingling, numbness, loss of mobility, and popping or clicking sounds in the joint. Different types of injuries have very specific and recognizable patterns of symptoms.
Treatment options will depend on the injury, but may include rest, cold compress, anti-inflammatory medications, immobilization in a cast, splint or brace, physical therapy, and, in severe cases, surgery.