The elbow is a very important body part that assists with daily activities and is specific to human and some primates. The joint that is between the upper and lower sections of the arm is considered the elbow. The elbow consists of these sections of bones including the humerus, radius and ulna. There are not only bones that make up the elbow but also three flexor muscles. These muscles include brachialis, brachioradialis and biceps brachii. The elbow joints extend and flex to allow for stretching, grasping, reaching and carrying. Unfortunately, there are common diseases and injuries that can cause the elbow to lose its ability to function properly. One of these is a torn tendon in the elbow. Two common injuries associated with a torn elbow tendon are “tennis elbow” and “golfer’s elbow”.
Causes of a Torn Elbow Tendon
For tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, there are different causes that can lead up to this injury. Some of these causes include:
- Playing extensive tennis
- Repetitive computer keyboard and mouse use
- Cutting food and meat
- Use plumbing tools
- Repeated use to backhand stroke
While each of these causes can lead to a torn tendon in the elbow, other risk factors can include age, occupation and playing certain sports.
Causes for golfer’s elbow, also known as, medical epicondylitis, are:
- Playing sports such as golf and racket sports
- Weight lifting and training
- Throwing sports such as archery and football
- Chopping wood
- Assembly-line word
Risk factors that can increase the risk of golfer’s elbow include age, obesity, smoking and repetitive acts.
Symptoms of a Torn Elbow Tendon
Symptoms of a torn tendon in the elbow include the following:
- Pain in the elbow
- Trouble lifting
- Difficulty making a fist or grasping objects
- Pain when straightening hand or wrist
- Shaky hands
- Inflammation of the elbow
- Numbness or Tingling
- Inability to bend elbow
A physical examination is the first step to diagnosing a torn elbow tendon. Other tests that can confirm a torn tendon can
- Medical ultrasonography
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
The most accurate test to determine a torn tendon is an MRI because it can also detect swelling or excess fluid of the elbow.
Doctors will often tell their patients that the best way to heal a torn elbow tendon is with R.I.C.E, known as rest, ice, compression and elevation. This type of treatment is usually accompanied with the use of NSAIDs, ibuprofen or aspirin. An elbow strap or a brace can be placed around the elbow to limit movement and pain. A handful of patients may require steroid injections for the pain or surgery. Physical therapy is a great way to heal the tendon and restore proper hand and elbow function. Physical therapy also helps prevent diseases such as carpal tunnel and arthritis.
Tips and Prevention
If you are suffering or have suffered from tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow or a small tear in the elbow, there are prevention tips to follow to help diminish your risks of a recurring tear.
- Stretching before a workout- Stretching or warming up before a jog or workout can be beneficial for your joints, bones and muscles.
- Lift properly- Remember never to lift with your back but with the bending of your legs. This action can help with back pain and elbow pain.
- Rest- There is no better way to heal than with a little bit of rest. Resting your body can do wonders on your tendons and muscles.
- Avoid certain sports- Sports such as football, golf, tennis and javelin require extensive training and workouts involving the elbow. Avoiding or limiting the playing time of these sports can help heal and/or prevent a torn tendon in the elbow.