Common Elbow Injuries
Elbow injuries are common even though the elbow is considered to be the most stable joint in the human body. Below, several common elbow injuries are listed and their treatments/recovery times.
This is the most common of all elbow injuries, and probably the most painful, is dislocation. Dislocation occurs when the elbow joint is pulled out of its normal configuration, usually as the result of hyperextension. The victim will usually experience an immediate loss in range of motion, severe pain covering the entire joint area and disfigurement at the joint site.
The only treatment for this type of injury is to have the joint reduced, or put back into place. This procedure should only be attempted by a licensed medical professional with experience in reducing elbow dislocations. Due to the over stability of this joint, reductions are difficult and sometimes can only be accomplished under anaesthesia.
Recovery times vary for elbow injuries such as dislocation, as it depends on the patient’s willingness to follow post treatment orders. There is a low incidence of recurrence.
Another common injury to the elbow is fracture, or breaking of the bones that make up the joint. There are many causes for bone fracture, from blunt force trauma to dislocation. Symptoms associated with fracture are severe pain, bruising, loss of range of motion, possible disfigurement of the joint, and numbness. Treatments for fracture vary with the severity of the break. In an instance where there is only a hairline fracture, a sling and rest may be prescribed.
Setting the bones with a cast is generally not recommended for elbow breaks unless the break occurs either above or below the joint and the joint retains integrity.
Surgery is the treatment of choice if any bone within the elbow joint is fractured. Recovery times vary based on the severity of the break and the method chosen to treat the injury.
Arthritis is considered a chronic injury to the elbow joint as the joint becomes increasingly more painful as the cartilage wears away. There are several classifications of arthritis, based on the causal reason for the disease. Treatment for arthritis includes chronic pain management through drug and supplement therapies and exercise. While there is no cure for arthritis, many technological advances help patients slow the progression of the disease and help manage pain.
Another chronic inflammation of the elbow is bursitis, or inflammation of the connective tissue that surrounds the joint space. Symptoms of bursitis include pain and swelling of the elbow joint during movement. Bursitis is generally caused by overuse of the joint and is seen in many older athletes, especially tennis players. Initial treatments for bursitis include judicious use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and rest. If the swelling fails to subside, the joint may be infected. If that is the case, the fluid must be drained and a round of antibiotics given.
Elbow Injury Rehabilitation and Prevention
Elbows are tough, study joints, but much care must be taken to prevent injury. Elbow pain can be debilitating, and it is important to seek treatment before symptoms worsen, or the length of recovery time could increase. The better care we take of our joints, the less likely we are to experience these conditions.
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Tim Allardyce DO MCSP SRP