Arm and elbow pain caused by conditions such as golfer’s elbow and elbow arthritis is treated by Newton Wellesley Orthopedic Associates in Newton and Wellesley, MA.
Conditions Affecting the Arm and Elbow
One of the most common causes of elbow pain in adults is lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow), a form of elbow tendonitis. Tennis elbow causes pain at the bony point (the epicondyle) on the “outside” of the elbow. Many patients with these conditions do not even play golf or tennis, but often are physically active in other ways, through sports or work. Almost all patients affected by tennis and golfer’s elbow are between 30-60 years old.
Golfer’s elbow is often indicated by pain on the inner side of the elbow and forearm. Also called medial epicondylitis, this condition is caused by repetitive stress that results in inflammation of the tendons that control the wrist and fingers, such as swinging a golf club incorrectly. In almost all respects, this condition is similar to tennis elbow, which is pain which occurs in the lateral elbow (“outside” of the elbow). It is a harmless condition which usually resolves very slowly without treatment. Treatment is almost identical to that of tennis elbow (see “tennis elbow” above).
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
Cubital tunnel syndrome refers to chronic compression of the ulnar nerve at the elbow. The ulnar nerve is responsible for providing sensation to the ring and small fingers, as well as one half of the hand. Some of the fine muscles in the hand as well as one of the muscles in the forearm that enable a person to perform power grip are also controlled by the ulnar nerve.
Arthritis of the elbow is usually one of two types – osteoarthritis (e.g. from “wear and tear”) and inflammatory arthritis (such as rheumatoid arthritis). Osteoarthritis most often occurs in manual laborers, heavy weightlifters, or individuals who have had a prior elbow fracture. It may also run in families. Rheumatoid arthritis may occur in individuals from any age group and regardless of activity level. No matter what the cause of arthritis, symptoms usually consist of some combination of pain and stiffness.
Elbow instability refers to a rupture or stretching out of one of the main ligaments that keeps the elbow from dislocating or subluxing (“partial dislocation”). This may occur following trauma or as a result of repetitive stress and strain to the ligament. Often, instability is not obvious to the patient but rather manifests as pain or a decrease in athletic performance (such as loss of pitch speed and endurance in a throwing athlete). Rarely, patients are able to actually pop the elbow out of joint and have had a history of dislocating the elbow in the past.
Distal Biceps Tendon Rupture
The biceps muscle is attached by tendons at both ends (the shoulder and the elbow). Either end can be torn as a result of trauma and degenerative change. This page discusses the distal biceps tendon rupture (at the elbow).
Triceps Tendon Rupture at The Elbow
The triceps is the large muscle in the back of the arm which is primarily responsible for extension (straightening) of the elbow. It is important for power tasks such as performing a bench press or a pushup, or even simple everyday tasks like straightening the elbow to hold an object overhead. Ruptures of this large powerful muscle and tendon are extremely rare, but may happen if a large flexion force is applied right as the triceps is contracting to resist this force (such as during a fall).
Elbow Pain in Young Athletes and Tommy John Surgery
With more widespread and high-level participation of young children and teenagers in sports in recent times, elbow injuries are becoming more common. The sport’s most likely to cause elbow injury are gymnastics and baseball (particularly pitchers and catchers) although athletes of all types and skill level are prone to elbow injury. Learn more about some of these causes of elbow pain in young athletes.
- Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) of the Capitellum
- Panner’s Disease
- Medial Ulnar Collateral Ligament Injury and “Tommy John” Surgery
- Valgus-Extension Overload Syndrome