What to do if your elbow hurts? Dr. Bastian Marquass, specialist for orthopedics, trauma surgery and sports medicine at the Joint Clinic Gundelfingen provides answers
Arthritis, bursitis, tennis elbow - elbow pain can have many causes. Privatdozent Dr. Bastian Marquass, specialist in orthopedics, trauma surgery and sports medicine at the Joint Clinic Gundelfingen, explains the most common complaints and proven treatment options.
Whether doing handicrafts or playing handball - without the finely controllable motor skills of our elbows, our shoulder joints would be pretty open. Only through the flexible connection of the upper arm and forearm are we able to perform a variety of throwing or striking movements. “Our ligaments and tendons naturally feel this mobility. With every movement of the elbow, parts of them are subjected to a greater or lesser load, ”explains Privatdozent Dr. Bastian Marquass, specialist in orthopedics and sports medicine at the Joint Clinic Gundelfingen. Multiple consequence: Overloading of the articular surfaces as well as painful tendonitis.
The most common type of tendonitis is the tennis elbow. As the name suggests, fans of "white sports" are often affected. But do-it-yourself, hours of working on the computer or other one-sided or repetitive movements can also trigger this disease. In addition to immobilization, cooling or heat treatments are helpful. Combination therapies with stimulation current, ultrasound or shock waves are suitable for pain relief. If these therapeutic approaches do not improve, surgery may be necessary. "For prevention, high-risk tennis players should check their technique," advises Dr. Marquass. "Because mistakes are often made here with serious medical consequences - not only in tennis, but also in other racket sports."
The expert tip: In order to train and stretch the forearm muscles in a targeted manner, the use of a power ball at home is sufficient. But a small empty plastic bottle can also be used for targeted training of the extensor tendons. Fill it with water and place it on the inside of the non-diseased hand. Then grasp the bottle with the hand affected by the tennis elbow, lift it a few centimeters and then put it back on the inner surface of the other, still open hand. It is best to repeat this exercise ten to fifteen times a day.
The term golf elbow is somewhat misleading. Because this disease is actually only rarely triggered by popular grass sports. It is generally the result of excessive strain on the tendon attachment of the long hand and finger flexor muscles on the inside of the elbow. "In this case, early anti-inflammatory treatment by the physiotherapist is very important," advises the expert. “Regular stretching exercises for the muscles and tendons of the forearm also have a preventive effect. Therefore, they should be part of everyday training for every ambitious golf player. ” As with the tennis elbow, cold and heat treatments, ultrasound, shock wave and stretch therapy can provide relief.
When the joint damper ignites
Recurring, monotonous movements often lead to bursitis on the elbow. Bursa, so to speak, serve as dampers between two joints and protect them from friction damage. There are eight of them in the shoulder area alone. "If the pads filled with synovial fluid are exposed to pressure for too long, they can catch fire," explains Dr. However, bursitis may also result from a bruise or a bacterial infection. Usually it heals on its own. Noticeable improvement is often brought about by storing and immobilizing with plaster or splint as well as cooling ointments. Anti-inflammatory pain relievers and cortisone are just as much an option as antibiotics for bacterial bursitis. Shock wave therapy is also helpful here. If the symptoms do not subside despite conservative treatments, the arthroscopic removal of the bursa is indicated. Joint protectors are recommended for vulnerable professional groups such as window cleaners or tilers.
Falls with consequences
If the mobility of the elbow is overwhelmed, it also leads to strains and sprains of the elbow. These complaints usually heal on their own. In this case, too, protection or immobilization of the elbow, cooling and possibly anti-inflammatory ointments are helpful. Breaks are not quite as unproblematic - often the result of a fall on the outstretched arm. Skateboard riders or inline skaters are often affected. Most of the time the serious injuries require surgery, often an artificial elbow joint.
Painful elbow dislocations are often the result of a fall. The elbow joint between the upper arm and both forearm bones is completely dislocated. "This also happens more often in small children if you lift them up or swing them around your forearms," explains the elbow specialist. "In any case, it is important to see a doctor immediately so that he can straighten the joint as quickly as possible."
When the metabolism is disrupted
Many types of elbow pain have no orthopedic cause. Rather, this is due to disorders of the metabolism or the immune system, such as arthritis in the elbow. The healthy tissue of the body is attacked by the body's immune system. This leads to stinging pain as well as inflammation, swelling and overheating in the joint. The holistic treatment is based on highly effective medications (including anti-rheumatic drugs) that relieve the symptoms and inhibit the inflammatory process. Gout can also cause painful inflammation of the elbows and other joints due to a disturbance in uric acid metabolism. As a rule, an improved metabolism can be achieved through appropriate nutrition. (sb, pm)