Elbow pain is commonly caused by overuse injury of the muscles and tendons that attach to your elbow.
Pain on the outside of your elbow is called Tennis Elbow and on the inside, Golfer’s Elbow. Activities that involve gripping are painful and limited. Although pain usually starts after a sudden increase in activity like gardening; many people can’t associate the start with anything specific.
Initially, you could try to maintain motion and strength by continuing with light normal activities that don’t cause pain.
Many people initially use ice or heat for a few days to control pain. Classic advice is ice for the first few days then switch to heat. Since there is no clear evidence we recommend whatever works better for you.
Many also use over the counter pain medications but because of all the potential side effects it is recommended you minimize use and carefully follow the directions. Your pain should decrease as you return to normal activity over a few weeks.
If your elbow pain is not improving or getting worse, it is time to get treatment.
Stretching exercises that involve combined elbow, wrist and forearm movements that completely stretch the injured muscle will be started. Progressive strengthening exercises isolating the injured muscles will be added.
A manual therapy treatment called soft tissue mobilization is often added to prevent scar tissue adhesion. If your pain is severe or a limiting factor to your lifestyle, ultrasound or electrical stimulation treatment may also be added.
Overuse injuries, such as these, are prevented through regular activity that strengthen and stretch your muscles and tendons and promote general fitness. You may get Tennis or Golfer’s Elbow if your shoulder or back are weak or stiff, or if you get fatigued and transfer excess force to your elbow.
Your physical therapy treatment will include exercises to address strength and flexibility issues and recommendations to improve your general fitness.
Christopher DiPasquale, PhD, PT, OCS, SCS, CHT is a physical therapist at Performance Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine with offices in Hebron and Colchester, Connecticut. He is board certified by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties in Orthopedic Physical Therapy and Sports Physical Therapy and a Certified Hand
Therapist by the Hand Therapy Certification Committee.