Tendons are the tissues that attach your bones to your muscles. When muscles are flexed, tendons spring into action and help to move your bones. Since we use our arms so often, tendon injuries in the elbow happen frequently. Elbow tendinitis is the inflammation of the elbow tendon and can occur at any age, although it is more common among adults who are heavily involved in sports.
What causes it?
Elbow tendinitis is an overuse injury that causes inflammation and pain. Soft tissue injuries of the elbow like tendinitis are often sporting- or work-related, as the repetition of the same activity over and over again does not allow sufficient healing time for the arm to recover between occurrences. Overuse puts strain on the elbow tendons, which can eventually rupture. Older people are also susceptible, because the tendons tend to lose elasticity and become weaker with age.
How do you know you have it?
Symptoms occur where the tendon attaches to the bone:
- Pain, which increases in severity with movement
- Swelling, heat, and redness
- A feeling that the tendon is “grating” or “crackling” as it moves
- Possible formation of a lump along the tendon
How we fix it
The OSI upper extremity team is experienced in advanced techniques for the treatment of elbow tendinitis. We are here to listen, discuss your concerns, and work with you to develop an effective treatment plan. You may undergo the following to determine the best course of care:
- Physical exam: Your doctor will ask about symptoms and carry out a physical examination. When the doctor attempts to move the tendon, a creaky sound may be heard. This happens because the tendon sheath has become thicker and inflamed.
- X-rays: X-rays may identify calcium deposits around the tendon, helping to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatments have a double aim, to relieve pain and reduce swelling:
- RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation
- Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen
- Splinting of the affected joint
- Corticosteroid injections
- Physical therapy
Tendinitis that is particularly persistent may cause significant damage to the tendon and possibly lead to tendon rupture, a condition more serious and one that may need to be addressed through surgery. A common procedure is arthroscopy, where a small camera beams images onto a screen; the surgeon then uses specialized instruments to repair the damage.