The elbow is a highly used joint, from sports activities to everyday tasks like brushing your teeth or eating, which is partly why elbow injuries are common among all age groups. It can seem difficult to avoid them since the elbow is involved with most activities and motion, but taking the proper preventative steps can help reduce the severity of an injury as well as help avoid it entirely.
Common Elbow Injury Types and Elbow Conditions
The elbow is made up of several small joints that connect our upper arm to our forearm and the elbow is supported by a network of ligaments, muscles, and tendons, which can all be injured by overuse or moving incorrectly, even a fall. While there is a wide range of elbow injuries that can occur, the most common types include:
- Tennis Elbow: a condition that causes pain on the outside of the elbow and is caused by inflammation of the tendons. While the name of the condition implies it’s restricted to tennis players, most people who develop the injury don’t play the sport and often develop it due to repetitive motions of the arm and wrist.
- Cubital Tunnel Syndrome: this condition develops when the ulnar nerve becomes compressed, which is the nerve that runs from the shoulder to hand and passes through a narrow space inside of the elbow. When the ulnar is compressed it causes numbness, pain, and tingling in the arm and hand.
- Golfer’s Elbow: as with tennis elbow, the name “golfer’s elbow” is misleading. It’s a repetitive stress injury on the muscles and tendons in the forearm which causes stiffened elbows, weak hands, and fingers. Unlike tennis elbow, this condition occurs on the inside of the elbow rather than the outside.
- Olecranon Bursitis: a condition that develops when the bursa becomes inflamed. The bursa is at the point of the elbow and is a fluid-filled sac that reduces friction between the bones and muscles. When inflamed, it can cause pain and tenderness at the elbow and is caused by repetitive motion, an infection, or direct trauma.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the joints, muscles, and tendons by the immune system attacking healthy tissue. The cause is unknown but treatable with medications, surgery, and physical therapy.
Tips to Prevent Elbow Injuries
While those are the most common type of elbow injuries, there are other conditions that can be avoided by adjusting everyday behaviors to prevent various types of elbow injuries:
Protect Your Elbow Joint
Proper protective gear, like a helmet and elbow pads, can do a lot in preventing injuries to your elbow. Impact sports and falls are often the cause of elbow problems, so be sure to wear protective gear during sports and that includes wrist guards to protect elbows when you catch a fall.
Maintain Good Posture
Many conditions of the elbow are caused by overuse and maintaining good posture and proper body mechanics can help prevent them from developing. For example, if you work at a computer most of the day then you should optimize your ergonomics as elbow pain can develop with prolonged computer use with poor posture.
Avoid Over Use
As mentioned earlier, many injuries to the elbow are caused by overuse. It’s important whether engaged in sports, work, or household chores, to give breaks when doing something repetitive. For example, if you only rely on your dominant hand for pushing, pulling, and gripping, try to use your non-dominant hand to perform tasks to remove strain and prevent injury.
Prevention with Physical Therapy
If you have mild-to-moderate elbow pain, it’s better to get it examined by a joint professional to prevent a chronic condition from developing, and see a physical therapist to learn better body movements and exercises that can help you avoid injury.
One of the best ways to prevent injury and elbow pain is to take careful steps on uneven or slippery surfaces. Many injuries to the elbow are caused by trying to catch a fall or landing wrong.
Proper Form & Sports
Some of the most beloved sports are heavy on contact, to help prevent any damage to the elbow joint it is best to engage in strength training to help perform reaching, lifting, gripping, and carrying easier and reduce the likelihood of elbow injury.
Safeguard Your Elbow Health
Protecting yourself from an elbow injury is a combination of taking lifestyle adjustment steps and making sure you’re properly protected when performing activities or playing sports. When you start developing pain, make sure to have it examined and lighten the use of the affected elbow.
We at Proliance Surgeons Everett Bone & Joint are dedicated to treating elbow injuries and conditions, ensuring our patients have the knowledge to participate in the medical process. By delivering the highest quality of care and expertise, we better the community and keep our neighbors in good health for as long as they can and help them with a shorter recovery time.