The elbow is a complex joint that consists of the upper arm bone (humerus) and one of the lower arm bones (ulna) connected by a hinge, or a joint that only moves in one direction. Although not protected by muscle or fat like most other joints, the elbow is one of the most important joints in the body as it allows the arms to bend and twist.
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
Similar to carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome causes pain and numbness as a result of long-term nerve inflammation. In cubital tunnel syndrome, the ulnar nerve is affected at the site of the cubital tunnel, located in the elbow. Inflammation may occur as a result of frequent bending of the elbow or simply from the natural anatomy of the elbow joint.
Patients with this condition often experience pain and numbness on the outside of the hand and wrist, especially after the elbow has been bent for a long period of time. Your doctor can diagnose this condition through a physical exam and nerve conduction velocity test.
Treatment for cubital tunnel syndrome may involve anti-inflammatory medication, splints, braces or life changes to relieve symptoms or prevent them from recurring. For symptoms that do not respond to conservative methods, surgery may be needed to relieve pressure on the ulnar nerve, which can be done through ulnar nerve transposition or medial epicondylectomy. Most patients are able to receive successful relief from cubital tunnel syndrome.
Golfer’s Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis)
Medial epicondylitis, more commonly known as Golfer’s Elbow, is a form of tendonitis that manifests on the inner side of the elbow. It is caused by the tendon in the forearm being stressed from constant use, but is not restricted to golfers; pitchers and even those not involved in sports can develop golfer’s elbow.
Golfer’s elbow is generally treated using analgesics and anti-inflammatory medication, as well as resting the elbow. However, professional athletes suffering from this condition may opt for more immediate relief in the form of glucocorticoid injections so as not to miss important career events. This treatment is risky because of the close proximity of the ulnar nerve to the affected area, damage to which could have severe ramifications.
Olecranon bursitis, also called elbow bursitis, involves the development of a fluid-filled sac between the loose skin and bone of the elbow. This condition typically occurs after a fall onto the elbow, from an infection, or from prolonged pressure on the elbow, and may cause pain, swelling and limited motion of the elbow joint. Infected elbow bursitis may cause fevers, chills, sweats and redness.
Treatment for olecranon bursitis depends on the cause and severity of the condition, but may include applying ice, rest, fluid aspiration or antibiotics. Severe cases or those that do not respond to conservative treatment may require surgery to remove the bursa, with no damage to surrounding muscles, ligaments or joint structures.
Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)
Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is an elbow injury that occurs as a result of overuse, most commonly from playing tennis. The pain associated with this condition affects the lateral epicondyle, the area where the forearms’ tendons connect with the bony outer portion of the elbow. While tennis elbow typically affects adults aged 30 to 50, anyone who continually stresses their wrists is at a higher risk of developing this condition.
Treatment of lateral epicondylitis may include the following:
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Icing of the affected area
- Cortisone injection
- Elbow Brace
- Physical Therapy and/or exercises
Many of these conditions can be treated through conservative methods, but some may require surgery to effectively relieve pain and restore function to the joint. Your doctor will decide which type of treatment is best for you after a thorough evaluation of your condition.
To learn more about our Elbow Procedures & Treatments, please contact us at (504) 349-6804 today to schedule an appointment.