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Overuse Injuries of the Elbow

What Are Overuse Injuries of the Elbow?

Overuse injuries of the elbow occur when tendons, ligaments, or muscles become damaged by repetitive use and without adequate time to heal. Muscles and tendons can adapt to stress and usually become stronger. However, they also need time to rest and rebuild. Overuse injuries of the elbow are common among athletes. Two common overuse injuries are Tennis elbow and Golfer’s elbow. Both of these activities require repetitive use of the arm, wrist and elbow. However, any activity involving the elbow that is repetitive and continued over a period of time can cause an overuse injury.

Lateral epicondylitis, commonly called Tennis elbow, occurs when the tendons on the outer side of the elbow are damaged by repetitive movements of the wrist and forearm. Medial epicondylitis, Golfer’s elbow is similar to Tennis elbow but affects the inner, medial, side of the elbow.

How Are Overuse Injuries of the Elbow Caused?

Repetitive motions of the wrist, fingers and forearm can cause tears in the tendons of the elbow. With continued use and inadequate rest, the tendons do not heal properly and scar tissue can occur. Both the micro-tears and the scar tissue can cause pain and inflammation of the elbow. The condition can become chronic if left untreated. Many individuals believe they should “work through” the pain and discomfort. With overuse injuries, rest and treatment is the best approach.

Treatment Options for Overuse Injuries of the Elbow

Non-Surgical Treatment

Most patients recover successfully without surgery. Many effective non-surgical treatment options exist.
Rest is the first step toward recovery. The affected tendons and muscles need time to heal.
Anti-inflammatory medications, such as Motrin and Aleve, can help reduce pain and swelling.
Steroids injections into the damaged area are often effective at relieving symptoms.
Physical therapy which may include heat, ultrasound, ice, or muscle stimulation, can improve muscle healing.
Ergonomic modifications in the work or activity causing the overuse injury should be considered.
Use of a strap to keep the forearm and elbow immobilized and resting for 2 to 3 weeks.

Surgical Treatment

If pain persists despite non-surgical treatments, orthopedic surgery may be necessary to relieve symptoms. Most surgical procedures for elbow overuse injuries involve removing damaged tissue and reattaching healthy tissue back to bone. The right surgical approach will depend on a range of factors. These include the scope of your injury, your general health, and your personal needs. The most common approach to repair overuse injuries of the elbow is open surgery. This involves making an incision over the elbow. Open surgery is generally performed on an outpatient basis, rarely requiring an overnight stay. An Arthroscopic surgery, using tiny instruments and small incisions, is another, less invasive option to repair overuse injuries of the elbow. Like open surgery, this is a same-day or outpatient procedure. However, recovery is usually quicker with less discomfort with arthroscopic surgery.

How Is Elbow Arthroscopy Done?

Elbow arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure and can be performed under general or regional anesthesia. The surgeon inserts an arthroscope, a lighted, tubular device, into a small incision in the side of your joint and uses a probe to examine your elbow. Removing and/or repairing damaged tissue is done through additional portal incisions that are so small, stitches are not usually required.

Recovery Time

Recovery varies for each individual and the extent of the surgery, but is usually anywhere from one week to several months. If the procedure is minor, most patients can return to work and sports within three to six weeks of surgery. However, three to six months is often required for complete recovery.

Why See Dr. Knight for Overuse Injuries of the Elbow

Dr. Knight has over 20 years of experience and has helped thousands of people get relief from overuse injuries. He has performed more than 15,000 procedures and is in the forefront of his profession in advanced arthroscopic procedures and stitchless endoscopic procedures. As a surgeon, Dr. Knight relies on the intricate movement of his wrists and hands to perform his job and understands the importance of relieving pain and recovering full range of motion.

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