By Dr. John A. Papa, DC, FCCPOR(C)
The elbow is a complex joint that allows movements of flexion, extension, and rotation. Most daily activities require a combination of these actions to produce motion in the arm, forearm, wrist, and hand. Two common elbow injuries include Golfer's Elbow (GE) and Tennis Elbow (TE). Both of these elbow conditions can cause pain and weakness which results in functional limitations with gripping, pushing, pulling, and lifting activities of the affected arm.
Golfer's Elbow (GE) is medically known as medial epicondylitis and causes the inner part of the elbow to become sore and tender. This typically affects the muscles and tendons that flex the fingers and wrist, and roll the forearm inwards.
Tennis Elbow (TE) is medically known as lateral epicondylitis and causes the outer part of the elbow to become sore and tender. This typically affects the muscles and tendons that extend the fingers and wrist, and roll the forearm outwards.
GE and TE can affect anyone involved in activities that require rapid and/or repetitive motion of muscles and joints in the forearm, wrist, and hand. It is more likely to happen if these movements are combined with awkward posture(s), excessive force, poor technique, and using the wrong equipment or tool. Occasionally, a direct blow to the elbow may be a causative factor. Physical deconditioning can also make individuals susceptible to these conditions.
GE and TE can affect a broad variety of people including: trade workers such as electricians, painters, and carpenters; recreational athletes such as tennis players and golfers; and labourers such as cleaners and assembly line workers. Computer use, and even hobbies like gardening and knitting can be associated with GE and TE.
It is important to establish an accurate diagnosis of GE and TE. This can be accomplished by performing a proper medical history, along with a physical examination. Other causes of elbow pain may include: fractures, bursitis, arthritis, sprains, nerve irritation, or referred pain from the neck and/or shoulder region. Any elbow injury with obvious evidence or suspicion of fracture or joint dislocation necessitates the need for emergency medical care.
Chiropractors are healthcare professionals skilled in diagnosing and treating muscle and joint conditions such as GE and TE. Initially, relative rest and altering or eliminating the conditions that contributed to the injury is important. This may include making changes to a work station, using the correct tools/equipment, and taking breaks to relax overworked muscles and joints. Treatment options include electrotherapy, acupuncture, ultrasound, taping, bracing, specialized soft tissue therapy, and manual joint mobilization. In addition, a comprehensive rehabilitation program should also include stretching and strengthening exercises that target the muscles of the forearm, upper arm, shoulder and upper back.
If elbow pain is keeping you away from your favourite activities, consider chiropractic care. A chiropractor will assess your symptoms, diagnose your condition, and recommend a treatment plan to put you on the road to recovery. For more information, visit www.nhwc.ca.
This article is a basic summary for educational purposes only. It is not intended, and should not be considered, as a replacement for consultation, diagnosis or treatment by a duly licensed health practitioner.