The elbow joint is a complex structure comprising of cartilage, ligaments, bones, and fluid. It relies on the coordinated movement of muscles and tendons to facilitate flexion and extension. When any of these components sustain damage, it can result in pain and limitations in mobility. Various factors can contribute to an elbow injury, with one common condition being tendinitis. Tendinitis refers to inflammation that affects the tendons connecting muscles to bones.
Other types of injuries can occur in the elbow, such as sprains, strains, fractures, arthritis, and dislocation. Tendinitis, specifically in the elbow, often arises as a sports-related injury. Activities like golf or tennis, which involve repetitive motions and overuse of the elbow, can contribute to the development of tendinitis and subsequent damage to the joint. Esteemed orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Brian Cable, discusses the causes of injury to the elbow and sheds light on how to avoid the common causes.
Injuries to the Muscle Tendon
Muscle tendon injuries are a common concern to the elbow, especially among tennis players, particularly those at the elite level who extensively utilize their elbows. These injuries typically arise from overuse and can be attributed to various factors, including the following:
- Overuse of the wrist extensors or supinator muscles.
- Excessive load placed on the elbow.
- Size of the racquet handle.
- Weight of the racquet.
- Poor technique, such as leading with the elbow.
- Contact with the lower half of the strings on the racket.
- String tension, which may affect recreational players.
One potential reason for these injuries is the transfer of shock. Lateral elbow tendinopathy (LET) often occurs when players repeatedly engage in activities that subject the elbow to such shocks.
“The most significant pain and damage are typically experienced during ball impact and the early follow-through phase,” says Dr. Brian Cable. “Another contributing factor to these injuries is the absorption of shock in double-handled backhand players. As the nondominant hand absorbs more of the energy, it reduces the amount of shock transmitted and lowers the likelihood of developing this type of damage.”
LET in Elbow Injuries
To effectively determine the appropriate treatment for elbow-related conditions, it is crucial to consider the presenting symptoms. In the case of lateral elbow tendinopathy (LET), the primary symptom is pain localized over the lateral aspect of the elbow. This pain often extends into the forearm, creating a radiating sensation. The onset of pain can be attributed to the resistance encountered when loading the wrist extensors.
One significant indicator of LET is a reduction in grip strength while handling a tennis racket. Individuals experiencing this condition may notice a decline in their ability to maintain a strong grip, which can affect their performance on the court.
Notes Dr. Cable, “The compromised grip strength is directly linked to the involvement of the wrist extensors, which play a crucial role in generating and controlling force during tennis strokes.”
Appropriate treatment of LET is key to minimizing pain, promoting healing, and facilitating a safe return to tennis activities. Seeking professional medical advice and following a structured treatment plan can optimize recovery and help individuals regain their strength and function in the elbow joint.
Creating a Treatment Plan for LET
Treating lateral elbow tendinopathy (LET) and other elbow injuries requires a tailored approach that addresses the specific circumstances. It is crucial to consider various factors to not only facilitate healing but also prevent future occurrences.
“Addressing the underlying cause of the problem is critical. Correcting any technique issues is an essential part of the treatment process,” says Dr. Cable.
Rehabilitating the tendon is typically achieved through mobilization techniques and exercises involving heavy loads. These approaches are often effective in promoting tendon recovery.
If conservative treatment methods and rehabilitation do not yield satisfactory results within a six-month period, surgical intervention may be necessary to alleviate pain and restore proper motion. However, it is essential to carefully consider the long-term outcomes associated with such procedures.
Other Elbow Injuries
There are various ways in which an elbow can be injured, with tendonitis being a common condition among tennis and golf players.
- Dislocation: Elbow dislocation occurs when the joint is forced out of its normal position. This often happens when a person lands on an outstretched hand while trying to prevent a fall. Overuse can also increase the risk of dislocation in athletes.
- Bursitis: Bursitis refers to inflammation or irritation of the olecranon bursa, which is the bony tip of the elbow. It can result in swelling caused by fluid accumulation. Sudden trauma is often the cause of bursitis.
- Elbow strains and sprains: Athletes frequently experience strains and sprains due to the abnormal stretching and tearing of ligaments around the elbow. These injuries can result from overuse or sudden traumatic incidents.
Individuals dealing with such pain can benefit from comprehensive treatment that focuses on rehabilitation. This may involve various therapeutic approaches aimed at improving function and alleviating pain caused by accidents or overuse. By addressing the underlying causes and providing appropriate rehabilitation, individuals can find relief and regain optimal functionality in their elbows.
About Dr. Brian Cable
Dr. Brian Cable is an esteemed orthopedic surgeon renowned for his vast experience and unwavering commitment to patient well-being. With a Magna Cum Laude graduation from UCLA and completion of his Orthopedic Surgery Residency at Texas Tech University Health Science Center, Dr. Cable’s academic accomplishments are a testament to his dedication to excellence. He is a licensed physician in both Pennsylvania and California, having earned his medical degree from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, where he distinguished himself as an Alpha Omega Alpha member.