The knees and hips get a lot of attention when it comes to joint injuries, but your elbows can be injured, too. Like other joint problems, elbow injuries and pain are especially common among athletes and other people who use their arms a lot, and they’re also more common as we get older.
Today, there are state-of-the-art treatments to treat elbow injuries, relieve chronic and acute pain, and restore normal joint function. But ideally, it’d be great to avoid those problems in the first place. That’s where exercise can often help.
As a leading orthopaedics practice with offices in Dallas, Plano, Keller, Weatherford, and Fort Worth, Texas, Texas Orthopaedic Associates offers both state-of-the-art treatment and innovative preventive therapies for elbow issues. In this post, our team reviews the basics of elbow injuries, along with some simple exercises that can help keep your elbows healthy.
Elbow problems: The basics
Your elbow might seem like a simple hinge joint, but the anatomy is fairly complex. In addition to the bones that form the actual joint, there are supporting ligaments, tendons, and muscles that influence the elbow’s function. Plus, major nerves that travel through the joint can be affected by injuries, too.
Many elbow injuries are caused by repetitive use or overuse. These injuries typically happen in athletes or people whose jobs require a lot of arm use.
Golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis) and tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) are two repetitive use elbow injuries, and as their names imply, they’re associated with the motions involved in two popular sports.
These injuries differ in how they affect the joint and which parts of the joint are involved. While tennis elbow affects the outer part of the elbow joint, golfer’s elbow symptoms affect the inner part of the elbow.
Elbow sprains are another type of injury that happens when the ligaments that connect the arm bones are stretched or even torn, typically by strenuous physical use of your arm. Elbow fractures can often occur, although these breaks are frequently caused by falling directly on the elbow or on your outstretched arm.
Finally, arthritis can also cause elbow pain and stiffness. Arthritis happens when years of wear and tear cause damage in the cartilage layer that protects the joint surfaces. Since inflammation is involved, you might have swelling or warmth around the joint in addition to pain and stiffness.
Elbow exercises to try
These exercises focus on strengthening the muscles, ligaments, and tendons that support healthy joint movement.
Stand straight, arms at your side. Bend one arm up until your hand touches your shoulder. Hold for 10-30 seconds, then relax and repeat 10 times for each arm. Depending on your joint health, you can also use a hand weight to build greater muscle strength.
Stand (or sit) with your arms bent at a 90-degree angle to your body, palms down. Slowly rotate your wrists to palms up, hold for 5-10 seconds, then reverse to palms down. Repeat 30 times. You can add a can or other light weight to increase the load and improve your strength.
Standing straight with your arms extended in front of you, hold a washcloth in your hands and wring it out, twisting your hands in opposite directions for a count of five. Repeat 10 times, then switch the direction of the wringing motion for another 10 reps.
Sit straight up in a chair with your palms resting on the arms. Flex your arms and try to lift yourself out of the chair using only your arms (not your feet). Hold for a count of five, then slowly relax. Repeat 10 times.
Place your hands, palm side up, under the edge of a kitchen or dining table. Press your hands against the table as if you’re trying to lift it, and hold the flex for a count of 5. Relax and repeat 10 times. (You don’t need to actually lift the table; you’re using the table for resistance.)
Find relief for your elbow pain
It might be tempting to try to alleviate elbow pain and stiffness on your own, but without medical treatment, many elbow problems can wind up getting a lot worse instead of improving. To learn how we can help relieve your elbow symptoms and prevent problems in the future, book an appointment online or over the phone at Texas Orthopaedic Associates today.