How many of us have suffered through the pain of hitting the elbow's "funny bone"? The "funny bone" isn't an elbow bone. The radiating, shock-like pain and tingling you feel is the result of irritating the ulnar nerve that passes over the end of your elbow. The ulnar nerve isn't protected by fat and lies just under the skin, which is why it hurts when you hit your elbow.
"Funnybone" pain is temporary and usually diminishes within a few minutes. But what about chronic elbow pain and stiffness that continues for days? What are the most common causes of elbow pain?
Also called epicondylitis, elbow tendonitis happens when muscles and tendons become strained and inflamed due to engaging in repetitive actions. For example, swinging a golf club or tennis racket several hours a day, painting or constructing a building for a living, and even being a chef who slices and dices food for extended periods may cause symptoms of elbow tendonitis. Any time the forearm muscles are contracted repeatedly without rest, the risk of tendonitis increases.
Signs of elbow tendonitis include:
Severe elbow tendonitis may cause the elbow to swell and feel tender and warm to the touch. To help heal tendonitis of the elbow, your elbow pain doctor at Zaker Chiropractic may use several drug-free, surgery-free techniques, such as cryotherapy. By increasing blood flow to the elbow to help reduce inflammation, cryotherapy utilizes the placement of alternating hot and cold packs on the elbow. Cooling damaged tendons decrease inflammation and pain while heating tendons stimulated the production of collagen to promote healing. Collagen is a protein essential to providing structure and good health to your tendons, connective tissues, skin, cartilage, and bones.
Elbow joints are protected by tiny sacs filled with synovial fluid. These bursitis "bursa" sacs cushion bones, tendons, and muscles against forceful impacts to the elbow. If your elbow pain doctor diagnoses you with elbow bursitis, that means those sacs are inflamed and irritated due to trauma, infection, or moving your elbow repeatedly in the same way. In some cases, the elbow may develop a large swelling that visibly protrudes and feels feverish. Left untreated, elbow bursitis could lead to severe stiffness and the inability to move the elbow without experiencing extreme pain.
Treatment for elbow bursitis includes steroid injections, cryotherapy, and resting the elbow. In some cases, your doctor may recommend platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy when elbow bursitis does not respond to other treatments. PRP therapy involves extracting platelets from your blood sample and injecting these platelets into the elbow. Platelet-rich plasma encourages the release of growth factors that attract stem cells beneficial to repairing and regenerating damaged tissues. PRP is so effective at healing soft tissues many people avoid elbow surgery by using PRP to treat chronic elbow pain.
The ulnar nerve can get irritated and compressed due to making constant and repetitive motions with your elbow, routinely placing the weight of your upper body on your elbows (leaning on tables, for example), or keeping elbows bent for extended periods. If the cubital tunnel through which the ulnar nerve passes narrows, it can further compress the ulnar nerve and cause elbow pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in your hands and fingers. Elbow pain treatment for cubital tunnel syndrome includes
In addition to wearing a splint while sleeping and showing you how to properly exercise the elbow to reduce symptoms, your elbow pain doctor may also recommend massage therapy to relax muscles and decompress the ulnar nerve. Some patients find chiropractic adjustments helpful in relieving painful symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome.
Dr. Misa Zaker owns and operates Zaker Chiropractic and proudly serves patients in Orange County and South Bay. If you suffer chronic elbow pain, call (949) 734-4454 for an appointment with Newport Pain & Wellness, (424) 235-1562 for South Bay Pain & Wellness, or (310) 831-0003 for an appointment with San Pedro Pain & Wellness for prompt, personalized elbow pain treatment.