In as early as 1936 Cyriax identified no less the 26(!) different structures that could cause elbow pain. Elbow pain can be caused by traumatic injury, poor neck alignment (posture), irritation from the nerves in your neck or repetitive overuse of the muscles surrounding your elbow.
Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow) – An injury that causes pain and inflammation of the tendons that attach to the outer bony prominence (lateral epicondyle) of your elbow. Repetitive irritation without enough time for rest and recovery can lead to chronic inflammation of the bone where the tendon attaches.
The pain may extend into the forearm muscles and is usually aggravated when grasping or holding an object even as light as a cup of coffee. Any repetitive motion of the wrist or hand (gardening, using a hammer, typing or writing) can cause tennis elbow.
Inflammation and/or small tears can be managed with physiotherapy, specific exercise, bracing and activity modification. In some cases large tears or chronic inflammation and function loss may need a more invasive intervention (injection or surgery).
Medial Epicondylitis (Golfer’s Elbow) – An injury that causes pain and inflammation of the tendons that attach to the inner bony prominence (medial epicondyle) of your elbow. Repetitive irritation without enough time for rest and recovery can lead to chronic inflammation of the bone where the tendon attaches.
The pain might spread into your inside of your forearm. This is also typically an overuse injury to the muscles and tendons. Similar activities as described for tennis elbow aggravate the pain, but with some differences. There may also be numbness or tingling in the ring finger and pinky finger because of nerve involvement.
Ulnar Nerve Compression – The ulnar nerve passes through a bony groove along the inside of the elbow. This nerve can cause pain and/or numbness along the inside of the forearm to the pinky and ring finger when irritated or inflamed. This can occur if someone hits their elbow sharply or leans on the elbow in a position that puts pressure on the nerve for a prolonged period of time.
Physiotherapy management of the above conditions has scientifically been proven to be helpful in relieving pain, speed up recovery and rehabilitate acute and/or chronic issues of the elbow.
Treatment involves manual or manipulative therapy, modalities, education, self-care management and exercise therapy commonly used by a registered physiotherapist to treat elbow pain.
Other treatments such as acupuncture, soft tissue release and massage therapy can also help. Bracing of the elbow can be helpful for lateral and medial epicondylar issues but should be assessed by a professional before fitted.
A registered physiotherapist can conduct an assessment and examination of your issue and recommend the appropriate treatment.