Does your elbow hurt? If you’ve had an injury to your arm, especially in the elbow area, you may need to do more than rest it and apply ice or heat.
An elbow injury doctor can help with all kinds of sports injuries, as well as problems from day-to-day life. Here is the guide to when you should see a doctor about your elbow
Limited Movement with the Elbow
If you’re having trouble bending or straightening your elbow, it could indicate joint problems. Limited movement is your body’s way of telling you that there is something wrong, whether you’re trying to make a fist or flex your hand.
Other types of movement that can be restricted are rotational movement, extending your hand to reach for something, or reaching up to your head to brush your hair or scratch an itch.
Seeing a sports medicine specialist in your area can mean you get help right away. Seek immediate treatment by a physician trained in sports medicine in Portland if you have trouble moving your elbow.
Elbow Injury Doctor for Numbness
Sometimes numbness in your arms could be associated with other medical conditions like a heart attack or stroke. Seek immediate medical care if you also have some (or all) of these symptoms that may indicate a stroke or heart attack.
- Chest pain
- Shoulder pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Palsy (paralysis) or weakness in facial muscles
- Nausea or vomiting
While some overuse injuries are associated with numbness (see overuse section below), there could also be nerve damage. The ulnar nerve runs through your elbow, and often when your elbow is bent for long periods of time, you can develop a tingling sensation. When someone bumps their elbow into something and experiences a jolt of pain or numbness that radiates to the hand, most likely they will say they hit the “funny bone” when in reality, it was the ulnar nerve of the elbow that was injured. If your pinky or ring finger falls asleep and then you straighten your arm and it goes away, it’s probably not something to worry about. However, if it does not, it maybe time to contact a local elbow doctor.
Another reason to see a physician right away is if you can’t feel your elbow at all. Such symptoms and those above could indicate other more serious problems besides a simple elbow injury.
If it’s a non-emergency, calling a sports injury doctor can help you get the help you need.
You may need to see a local sports injury specialist if you’ve tried icing and resting your elbow and you don’t see any improvement.
Don’t wait too long to see a sports injury doctor for an elbow that shows no improvement. If you wait too long, some injuries get worse or become irreparable.
For example, if you’ve snapped a tendon and it’s become detached, the tendon can tighten up. Before long, it won’t be able to stretch back to be reattached. If you suspect you may need to see a doctor, do it right away so that they can help with any injuries as much as possible.
If you’ve been using your elbow a lot, you may need to see a sports medicine doctor. Overuse is a common cause of medical issues. You could have bursitis, or another injury named after sports, like golf elbow or tennis elbow.
Bursitis affects areas near your joints. The fluid-filled sacs around your joints are called bursae. These help provide cushioning for your joints, and they can become inflamed. If your elbow is especially painful when you press on it or move it, you could have bursitis. The area may also look red and swollen.
Other Elbow Overuse Injuries
Your elbow is where several of your arm bones meet, including:
- Your humerus in your upper arm
- Your radius that runs from your thumb to your elbow
- Your ulna that runs from your pinky finger to your elbow
Each of those bones have different parts, and the protruding part of the ulna is the bony, knobby part of your elbow. That’s called the olecranon. Golfer’s elbow happens when the tendons of your forearm that attach to the olecranon become inflamed, and it can be quite painful.
If you’re feeling pain in the inner aspect elbow or forearm close to your body, it could be golfer’s elbow. You may also feel weakness in your elbow or forearm or notice stiffness. Be sure you talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing these symptoms, especially if you’ve have swelling.
A similar condition called tennis elbow happens when you overuse the muscles on the outside area of your forearm. It results in pain associated with gripping objects, lifting things like a gallon of milk, and shaking hands. It is common among tennis players because tennis elbow has been associated with a one handed tennis backhand. If you’ve been swinging a tennis racket or a similar object a lot, you may develop tennis elbow. The pain may increase when you turn a doorknob or car key or use your grip for other things like picking up a coffee mug.
Most of the time, tennis elbow occurs in adults between the ages of 35 and 55, although if you’re a different age it can still affect you. Talk to your doctor if it doesn’t seem to be improving or if you have severe pain or feel weak.
Preventing Elbow Injury
You can help prevent overuse injuries by taking the time to stretch before you warm up. Then make sure you warm up gradually instead of just jumping into playing sports. Then afterwards, if you experience any pain, don’t continue to play.
Often after an injury, your elbow can be much weaker than before. Ask your sports medicine doctor for help strengthening your elbow. They can provide exercises and therapy to accelerate recovery and get you back in the game faster.
If you use your hands for a living, like construction or carpentry work, you may want to switch to tools that don’t weight as much. For example, a lighter hammer can help decrease your chance of re-injuring your elbow. There are also splints or braces that you can wear on your elbow to help prevent further overuse injuries
Bending Your Elbow
You may have a serious elbow injury if you’re having trouble bending your elbow. Whether you have pain while trying to extend your elbow or bend it toward your body, it could mean you need medical treatment.
See a doctor to help you evaluate your injury. They will ask you a series of questions about your efforts to bend your elbow, including whether there is any locking up or freezing. Your doctor will also listen for any clicking or cracking noises that could indicate elbow problems.
In children or teenagers, elbow injuries may affect the growing end of the long bones of the arm. If you wait to get the problem taken care of, they may have issues as they grow. Waiting for other types of elbow injuries may also mean lifelong limitations on movement or capabilities.
If you’re playing tennis or another sport, you may want to see a doctor if you have sudden pain while you’re playing. Any twisting or jerking motion can cause an injury, even if they are moves you’ve done a hundred times before.
If you suffered a direct blow to your elbow when the pain started, be sure to let your doctor know. Note any swelling or bruising that develops. You could have a sprain or injured tendon or ligament, as well as a broken bone.
Sudden pain can also happen when you fall during sports practice. Crushing your elbow can contribute to a broken bone or severe bruising. You can also get severe lacerations when you fall.
During sports or other exercises, you may push your elbow too far the wrong way. This is called hyperextension, and you’ll often hear a popping noise at the time of the injury. If you notice that your arm is weak or painful to touch, you may have hyperextended your elbow. You can also have swelling, and even pain near the bicep.
Often during martial arts or full-contact sports like football or rugby you can hyperextend your elbow. Be sure to see a sports injury doctor if you are having trouble extending your arm or straightening your elbow.
For more serious injuries and severe pain, go straight to the emergency room. They can administer first aid treatment and refer you to a sports medicine doctor if needed.
For any of the above injuries, you may benefit from evaluation by an elbow injury doctor. Whether you’ve injured your elbow playing sports or during your regular routine, it’s important that you seek the care of a specialist when you need it.
Don’t wait, make your elbow injury recovery a priority! Contact us to schedule an appointment and get back in the game faster!