Your elbows are complex joints which flex and extend your forearm and rotate your forearm and hand. You use your elbows to perform almost all of your daily activities, and when you have elbow pain this can make doing even simple tasks difficult. The Radius, Ulna, and Humerus bones of your arm meet and are held together by cartilage and tendons to form your elbows. The muscles and nerves also join to create your elbow joints. When any of these components are damaged or inflamed elbow pain is the result.
Tennis Elbow and Overuse
Overuse is one of the most common reasons for elbow pain. Despite its name Tennis Elbow can occur in anyone with that engages in repetitive motions. Athletes aren’t the only ones to complain of Tennis Elbow. Plumbers, carpenters, and butchers can also experience pain from overuse. You may experience pain in the tendons of your forearm because of tiny tears which develop. Your hand may shake and feel weak when you hold a cup, try to open a door, or shake hands. Rest and over-the-counter pain relievers are usually recommended for relief.
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
This condition is not as well-known as carpal tunnel of the wrist, but can cause pain, numbness, weakness, and tingling of the arm and hand. It is also known as ulnar neuropathy and is caused by increased pressure on the nerve in the area of your “funny bone”. This nerve is known as the ulnar nerve and cubital tunnel syndrome may be caused by leaning on your elbow repeatedly, and bending your elbow for long periods during sleep, or for example holding a cell phone. It can also be caused by repeated over use, or an abnormal growth of the bones in the elbow.
Symptoms include numbness, weakness, tingling, and pain in your hand and arm. Tingling and numbness in your ring and little finger are early signs of cubital tunnel syndrome. As the condition progresses you may also experience weakness in your grip, a decreased ability to pinch with your thumb and forefinger, muscle atrophy in the hand, and a claw-like deformity of your hand.
Treatment may include surgery to release the compression of the ulna nerve. This can be done as an outpatient procedure in the office, or under general anesthesia in a hospital setting. The orthopedic surgeon creates a larger path for the ulna nerve and relieves the pressure. Physical therapy may be required after surgery and recovery time is fairly short.
Radial Tunnel Syndrome
Radial tunnel syndrome is similar to cubital tunnel syndrome but it affects the radial nerve which runs the length of your arm. Bone tumors, injury, lipomas (non-cancerous fatty tumors), and inflammation of the surrounding tissue may cause this condition. Unlike cubital tunnel syndrome, this syndrome doesn’t usually cause numbness or tingling. You may experience stabbing, cutting, or piercing pain on the back of the hand or top of the forearm as symptoms. These may occur mainly when you try to straighten your fingers or wrist.
Treatment may include avoiding pressure on the radial nerve, but surgery may be an option if the condition is severe. The surgeon will make room for the nerve in your arm by opening up the pathway, trimming any bone spurs or tumors, and moving the layer of fat beneath the nerve to make more room. This type of surgery is usually done under general anesthesia in a hospital setting. Physical therapy may be needed after surgery, and most people recover fairly quickly.
These are a few of the common causes of elbow pain. Your elbows work hard for you, and sometimes over use and injury can cause pain, numbness, and tingling to occur. If you have any of these symptoms contact a doctor who specializes in orthopedics to find out the cause and your treatment options.