By John F. Meyers, MD 

John F. Meyers, MD, Tuckahoe Orthopaedics, Sports Medicine & ArthroscopyAll doctors recommend an active lifestyle as we age, but what happens when those sports or activities begin to cause aches and pains? Elbow pain, specifically, can keep us from enjoying our active lifestyles.

Chronic elbow pain in adults is most commonly linked to overuse due to repetitive motions of the hands that strain the elbows. This can result in the two main types of elbow pain: Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow.

The injuries aren’t always exclusive to tennis and golf, as even simple repetitive exercises, like using a screwdriver, can result in pain with gripping.

The Origin of These Common Elbow Pains

Both tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) and golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis) affect the same part of the body, but tennis elbow affects the outer side of the joint while golfer’s elbow affects the inner side.

Both sources of elbow pain are a result of microscopic tears in the attachment of the muscles that extend and flex the wrist. The blood supply within these tendons is not very good, so healing is difficult. As the tendon’s attachment to the muscle wears down, it becomes very painful when you try to flex or lift weight with your wrist.

How to Treat Elbow Pain

Pain from these conditions does not typically respond well to anti-inflammatory medication. And while ice and heat may help, your doctor will need to assess your injury to decide if a cortisone or platelet-rich plasma injection is appropriate or, if it is your second or third injury, if surgery is a viable option.

During surgery, the surgeon will make an incision over the tendon to scrape the bad tissue away and sew the damaged tendon to two tendons on the other side.

Fortunately, in the past few years new methods for treating elbow pain have become more common. And this has drastically reduced the number of tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow surgeries.

About five years ago, a physical therapist started a study to track the difference between routine physical therapy and a new set of eccentric exercise called the “Tyler Twist.” Half of the patients received traditional physical therapy, and half the new exercise program.

When the program was finished, none of the patients in physical therapy saw any improvement in elbow pain but 85 percent of those who did the exercise got better. This kind of treatment is low-pressure for patients, requiring one visit to the physical therapist to learn the exercise programs and finishing the routine at home.

For long-term avoidance of elbow pain, we recommend that patients work with a professional coach to change your stroke, assess your grip, and ensure you’re using the right equipment for your body.

Regardless of the reason why you’re experiencing increased elbow pain, it’s important that you see a doctor to treat it before it worsens or requires surgery.

Contact Tuckahoe Orthopedics today to evaluate the elbow pain you’re experiencing and consider your options.