What Can I Do About My Sore Elbows?  

We use our elbows every day – and that’s why it's one of the most common areas of injury treated by our Ottawa physiotherapists and chiropractors. There are 23 muscles involved in bending the arm at the elbow, along with the three major bones of the arm. There are many veins and arteries in the arm and elbow, and nerves that run down the length of the arm. It's a complex structure that we depend on.

The problem with elbows

Most issues with the elbow joint come from over-use. Many activities, including sports and job functions, require repeated movements of the hands, wrists, or arms. That makes it one of the most vulnerable areas of the body to injury and over-use. There are many common conditions that may cause pain and discomfort in and around the elbow.

  • Bursitis (joint inflammation) – inflammation of the bursa, or sacs of liquid that lubricate and ease movement at the joints.
  • Osteoarthritis – when the cartilage at the elbow is damaged or worn down over time, it means that bone hits bone.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – a chronic inflammatory disorder that causes pain and stiffness, and reduced mobility.
  • Golfer's elbow (medial epicondylitis) – inflammation of the tendons that connect the elbow to the forearm, with pain focusing around that bony bump on the elbow.
  • Tendinitis – inflammation of the tendons due to sudden injury or over-use.
  • Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) - inflammation of the tendons along the outside of the elbow, typically from over-use.
  • Throwing injuries – if your sport is baseball or another game that involves throwing, the tendons on the inner side of the elbow (where it attaches to the humerus bone) can become inflamed.
  • Trapped nerves – also called a pinched nerve, this can cause numbness, tingling, and pain in the elbow – typically involves the ulnar nerve, which runs along the outside of the elbow to the pinky.

Serious symptoms

Many conditions involving the elbow begin with mild pain and discomfort which may or may not get worse over time depending on how you take care of the area. However, there are certain symptoms where you should seek medical attention immediately. These include:

  • Severe pain;
  • Severe swelling;
  • Bruising around the joint;
  • An irregular shape or protrusion;
  • Sudden difficulty moving normally.

What can you do?

In the absence of severe symptoms, you can start to help yourself with these measures:

  • Protect the area from further injury, and rest – don’t keep doing the same old until it improves;
  • Ice – for 15 to 20 minutes, three times a day;
  • A compression bandage can help reduce mild swelling;
  • Elevate the arm where possible to reduce mild swelling.

Anytime the condition persists with no improvement after a day or two, you should also seek advice from one of our Ottawa physiotherapy and chiropractic clinics.

Prevention tips

  • Exercises that strengthen the muscles of the arm and shoulder, as well as flexibility, will help to reduce your risk of future problems;
  • When you practice a sport, be sure to use the correct form to avoid excessive strain and the resulting risk;
  • If you work at a computer or desk, make sure the keyboard is at a natural height, and try to rest to avoid over-use.

If you are experiencing pain in your elbow that won’t go away, our Ottawa physiotherapists, chiropractors, and other sports medicine specialists are ready to help. Don’t hesitate to contact one of our Ottawa clinics today.


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