When you have sharp pain on your elbow, it is bothersome and a lot of times, it also interferes with the activities that you perform every day. There are different causes of this pain. How would you know which one you have?
Lateral Epicondylitis is one of the causes when you have a sharp pain on your elbow. This is related to the pain and tenderness on the outside part of your elbow. It is also called “Tennis Elbow” because it is a common injury for the repetitive use among tennis players and other racket sports. It can also be caused by repetitive punching motion or in any martial arts activity, rock climbing, heavy weight lifting, gardening or plumbing to name a few. It is caused by overuse and inflammation of the extensor muscle, more specifically, Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis. The tendons rubs onto the bony joint of the elbow causing micro-tears in the muscle, which in turn causes inflammation and tenderness. This muscle is responsible for extending and abducting your wrist, abducting means to turn your wrist to the thumb side. It is also responsible for stabilizing your wrist while gripping or making a fist, and not allowing your wrist into a flexing motion. It can also cause weakness on the grip, making you drop things that you are gripping, even as light as a cup of water.
One of the ways to know if you have this is to perform a very easy test. You can have someone help you or you can do it yourself. You are going to make a fist and extend your elbow out in front of you. You can place your other hand or have your family member place his/her hand on top of your fist. Extend your wrist up while your other hand or your family member pushes your fist down. This will cause pain on the outside part of the elbow. You can consult with your MD or Occupational Therapist to confirm, and for treatment.
What can you do at home?
· Applying ice packs to the elbow will help reduce the inflammation and decrease swelling. Apply Ice packs for no more than 20 minutes several times a day will greatly help.
· Resting the injured elbow can also provide relief.
· Talk to your doctor regarding anti-inflammatory medications and steroid injections which can help reduce pain and swelling.
· Supporting the elbow with a brace will provide stability to the joint, and minimize the pain.
· Stretching the wrist will also help in the recovery, as well as massage to relieve some tenderness.
· Modify the activity or the positioning of your forearm that causes the pain.
· Occupational Therapy can provide specific exercises and devise a program that is unique to your case.