Elbow Injuries: When They Require Surgery

Elbow Injuries: When They Require Surgery

Elbow pain can really put a damper on your everyday lifestyle. And if you’re an athlete, elbow injuries can keep you from playing. Most elbow injuries are the result of overuse and resolve with conservative treatment in a few weeks. When elbow injuries are more severe or chronic in nature, other interventions, such as surgery, might be the best option.

Here are some of the most common causes of elbow pain:

Tennis Elbow

Lateral epicondylitis – also known as “tennis elbow” – is one of the most common culprits of elbow pain.  However, don’t let the name fool you. You don’t have to be a tennis player to develop this condition. In fact, less than five percent of tennis elbow cases are in tennis players.

Tennis elbow is caused by the overuse of the muscles that extend the wrist and hand, that are needed for a strong grip. The result is small tears where the muscles attach to the bones of the elbow. This condition affects anyone who does repetitive motions like gripping, twisting, and keyboarding. For this reason, the condition is common in musicians, painters, carpenters and other individuals who require a strong grip or wrist extension for their activity.

There are conservative treatment options for this condition, such as rest, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS), equipment modification and steroid injections. In chronic cases,  surgery can help to remove damaged tissue and reattach the muscles.

Medial epicondylitis or “golfer’s elbow” is the same condition on the inner side of the elbow, with the muscles that flex the wrist.

UCL injuries

The Ulnar Collateral Ligament – or UCL – is located on the inside of the elbow and is often the source of elbow pain from repetitive overuse, most commonly in athletes who are required to throw. UCL injuries are most common in baseball pitchers, javelin throwers and softball players.

Conservative treatment includes rest, ice, NSAIDs and physical therapy.

Surgery is an option when conservative treatments fail and a player cannot return to his or her sport. “Tommy John Surgery” is another name for the UCL reconstruction and has been performed on thousands of athletes in professional baseball and other sports.

If you are having elbow pain, you should be checked out by a physician who specializes in conditions of the musculoskeletal system, such as a sports medicine specialist or orthopedic surgeon. If the injury is long-lasting or prohibits you from doing the things you love, finding the right doctor may help determine whether surgery is the best option for you.

UCF Health offers comprehensive musculoskeletal care, including primary care sports medicine and orthopaedic surgery. Learn more at ucfhealth.com.

Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at UCFHealth.com, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.

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