Your Elbow Hurts, Now What?
The Best Possible Ways for You to Treat Your Elbow Pain
Elbow pain can arise in anyone, but it's most common in people that frequently perform activities involving the wrist. Athletes in sports that require throwing or swinging motions like tennis, golf, volleyball and baseball, as well as chefs, contractors and those who spend most of the day typing are particularly vulnerable for experiencing elbow issues.
The most common conditions that cause elbow pain are tennis elbow and golfer's elbow, which are both types of tendinitis (inflammation of tendons), while other causes include bursitis, arthritis, cubital tunnel syndrome and radial tunnel syndrome. If any of these conditions develops, you will likely experience pain and tenderness on the inside or outside of your elbow-which may also spread to the upper or lower arm-and it's usually worse when you lift or grip objects, make a fist, open doors or raise your hand.
Rest, exercises and wearing a brace are best for elbow pain
Most types of elbow pain don't require intense treatment like surgery and will improve on their own if a few important steps are followed. If you've been experiencing any sort of elbow pain, the best possible approach you can take is to:
- Ease the strain: rest your elbow by trying to avoid or limit involvement in any activities that demand too much use of the wrist or forearm, and/or take frequent breaks while doing them
- Work on your form: if you play golf, tennis or any other sport that may aggravate your elbow, take lessons from an experienced professional to modify your form and reduce the strain on your elbow
- Ice: apply ice to your elbow for 20-30 minutes every 3-4 hours for a few days
- Massage: apply firm pressure to the sore area and massage around and over it for 1-3 minutes and repeat 4-6 times a day
- Bracing: wearing a elbow brace can also help by providing additional stability, protection and pain relief, and most braces can be worn while participating in physical activities
Stretching and strengthening the muscles around the elbow is also necessary to improve function and reduce pain; below are some key examples, but it's best to see a physical therapist, occupational therapist or sports trainer for a full-scale evaluation and specific instructions on how to perform them:
- Wrist extensor stretch: straighten your arm out fully and push the palm of your hand down so you feel a stretch across the top of the forearm; hold for 15 seconds and repeat 2-3 times
- Wrist flexor stretch: with your arm fully straightened out, push the palm downward to stretch; hold for 15 seconds and repeat 2-3 times
- Wrist flexion/extension: for flexion, hold a can or a light weight with your palm facing up, bend your wrist upward, slowly lower the weight and return to the starting position; extension is the same movement but started with palm facing down; repeat each exercise for three sets of 10 repetitions
- Forearm pronation and supination: hold a can or light weight and bend your elbow 90°; slowly rotate your hand with your palm upward and then repeat with the palm downward; do this for three sets of 10 repetitions