How to Treat Elbow Pain and Tennis Elbow
Elbow pain may not be excruciating, but it can be persistent if not treated early. Since the most common cause of elbow pain is typically repetitive motion exerted on your forearm and wrist over time, it's important to take action to keep the pain from returning.
Conditions like tennis or golfer's elbow pain are what people often think of when it comes to an elbow injury. Still, elbow pain more commonly occurs in people who use their hands every day.
Carpenters, plumbers, typists, musicians, and people who use tools regularly and put extra and repetitive pressure on their hands and wrists often suffer most from elbow pain.
The good news is that most treatments for elbow pain can be done at home in just a few minutes each day.
This article outlines some of the treatments to help reduce elbow pain.
Symptoms of Elbow Pain
Elbow pain has several similar symptoms across conditions, which include:
Sharp pain in the elbow joint
Pain that radiates from the joint to the forearm and hand
Soreness, stiffness or severe pain of the elbow and forearm
Difficulty gripping items like a doorknob or cup
Loss of range of motion in upper arm and elbow joint
Searing or burning pain in the elbow and forearm
Redness or swelling of the elbow
Causes of Elbow Pain
The elbow joint connects three bones that allow you to bend your arm. It is protected by tendons, ligaments, and arm muscles, which also help control the use of your hands and fingers.
When these tendons and ligaments are strained, it can become painful or even difficult to use your hand and arm.
As mentioned earlier, the most common causes of elbow pain are repetitive stress motions like hammering, fastening, or cutting material, sewing, fitting pipes, typing, gripping an instrument, and many other activities that require the user to exert pressure on their forearm and wrist over extended periods. This causes too much stress on the elbow joint.
Improperly or repeatedly gripping a racquet, golf club, or baseball bat can also lead to elbow pain. Still, the condition is most common among manual labourers.
Different Kinds of Treatment for Elbow Joint Pain
For manual labourers, athletes, and others who regularly use their hands, there are several things to do to reduce or minimize elbow pain and help reduce instances of pain.
Experiencing tennis elbow pain or other conditions like a sprain can lead to chronic pain.
Once a patient has experienced tennis elbow or a similar condition of inflamed tendons, they are more likely to experience it again.
For pain relief, below are some treatments and actions you can take to reduce and help ease elbow pain:
Change How You Move
People who put pressure on their forearms, wrists, and hands should consider finding ways to adjust their movement and work to give that pressure a break.
Carpenters, for example, who carry out the same hammering every day should find alternative ways to hold and grip.
With heavyweight exerted on muscles, the same movements day in and day out can create long-term problems. Do the best you can to avoid actions that exacerbate the pain.
You can give your muscles a break by holding tools or items differently or changing how you do the same tasks. Use something to prop up heavy equipment if you can, so you don't have to bear all the weight or exert all the force yourself.
Ask for help to reduce or minimize the strain. Physiotherapy (or physical therapy) can provide practical movement alternatives, too.
For athletes who develop elbow pain, it's often from improper form hitting a racquet, golf club, or baseball bat or from using too big equipment, causing them to overextend their wrist and forearm to compensate. If you find yourself experiencing this, adjust your form or work with healthcare professionals like a physical therapist who may correct your movement.
Bands or Wraps
Another option for people who suffer chronic elbow pain is to wrap the elbow. Compression bands designed for elbow pain are made for labourers who experience chronic pain. The compression helps keep the muscle still and help it heal.
Ice or Heat Packs
It's recommended that when you are first injured or experience pain, ice packs are the best option to ease the pain. Right after straining the tendons or muscles, ice packs help constrict blood flow and reduce swelling. It's recommended that patients ice for 10-15 minutes a few times per day after the injury.
If you don't have access to ice packs, you can use frozen peas wrapped in a towel.
Heat is recommended for people who suffer more chronic elbow pain, like labourers repeatedly aggravating a muscle. A heat pack helps increase blood flow and relax muscles, allowing them to heal and relieve pain.
Stretching and other exercises can help reduce most elbow pain. Especially for people who experience chronic pain, stretching can help the condition from recurring.
Reducing activity after you've aggravated the muscle or ligaments is recommended, but stopping activity entirely is not recommended either as it can cause the inflamed muscles and tendons to stiffen.
There are a few common physical therapy exercises that have been found to help relieve pain and reduce stiffness:
Wrist stretch: Extend the palm of your hand toward the floor and gently pull your fingers toward your wrist. You should feel a stretch in your forearm. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds. Then flip your forearm over, and with your palm facing up, push your fingers toward the floor and hold this position for 20-30 seconds.
Wrist turn: Bend your elbow at 90 degrees and begin twisting your wrist, moving your palm around the wrist slowly, so it faces down and then up. Do this for 15-30 seconds and then reverse direction.
Wrist lift: This can be done with or without a weight. Bend the elbow at 90 degrees and hold your palm facing your body, then curl your forearm toward your body. Do this for 15-30 seconds and then turn your palm outward and bend your wrist in the other direction for 15-30 seconds.
Elbow bend/bicep curl: Lower your arm to your side and slowly bend the arm upward until your hand touches your shoulder. Repeat this movement for 15-30 seconds.
Towel twist: Use a rolled-up towel, sock, ball, or another object - grip it tightly enough with your hand or hands to make a fist and then twist. Do this for 10-20 seconds.
These are just some physical exercises you can do to help reduce pain and ensure your elbow, forearm, and wrist don't stiffen. Perform exercises like these using the guidance of healthcare professionals like Fix My Elbow.
Surgery or Injections
In more severe cases where a tendon or tissue has been damaged, doctors may recommend injecting plasma, Botox, or some other medicine into the tendon, causing pain. Suppose the elbow pain does not stop or subside after six to 12 months. In that case, doctors will also take an x-ray, and surgery may be recommended to remove damaged tissue.
Elbow pain can range from a nuisance to a severe injury that affects people's work and livelihoods. To reduce pain or minimize the effects of strain and elbow problems, this article outlined specific, mostly at-home treatments you can use to reduce inflammation and pain to help you get back to doing what you love to do.
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