Elbow pain can be quite disabling and if you've ever experienced it, you know that it's kinda like being struck by lightning right in your joint. It is like a current that travels to the tips of your fingers when it first strikes you. But striking pain can go away just as suddenly as it came, and then you think you're free from it. But what if it becomes chronic pain? What causes it and how can you relieve it?
Your elbow is not just a simple joint. It enables you to lift, throw, swing, and hug your dear ones. And you'd do anything to keep these abilities, right? Well, if you are someone who is involved in vigorous repetitive joint movements, there is a lot that could go wrong for your elbow and take away your abilities to enjoy your athletic performance and daily functions such as a being able to hug or shake one's hand.
Your elbow is a joint formed where 3 of your bones join: your upper arm bone (humerus) and the 2 bones that make up your forearm (ulna and radius). Each of these 3 bones has a cartilage on the end, and that is what helps them slide against each other and absorb shock. The tough tissues around them are called ligaments, and the tendons that connect your bones and muscles make it possible for you to move your arm in many different ways. If anything happens to any of these parts that make up your elbow, including the nerves and blood vessels around them, you will experience pain.
One way you can prevent damage to your elbow is to wear a pair of elbow sleeves. The sleeves will help absorb more of the shock before it reaches your cartilage, which will alleviate pain caused by an impact, for example. Your skin will be protected from scratches that can be caused by collision or falling. And because of the compression elbow sleeves provide you with, the pain you might already be experiencing will be significantly reduced, so you can recover actively and be able to enjoy your life more and give pain-free hugs to your loved ones.
What causes your elbow pain?
Some injuries, such as falling or colliding while playing a sport, can be one-off events. You can also get a strain if you put too much pressure on your elbow, especially if you lift heavy or over-train yourself. Sprains are quite common in athletes who throw, play contact sports, and use racquets. You can treat this with rest, ice, compression, and as soon as the pain is gone, with stretches and strength exercises. Make sure you check with your doctor if you think your elbow is dislocated or fractured.
- Dislocated elbow: When one of the 3 bones that forms your elbow joint gets knocked out of place, you are dealing with a dislocated elbow. For example, when you fall and try to put your hand out to catch yourself, you will most likely get a dislocated elbow. It can also happen to young children when you swing them by their forearms - that's commonly called nursemaid's elbow.
- Fractured elbow: When one of your arm bones breaks at the elbow, you're dealing with a fracture. You can get a fracture if you receive a sudden blow from a contact sport or car accident. You should check in with your physician if you've been through an event that could've caused you a fractured elbow. Even if you can still move it, if it hurts and looks 'wrong', you need to check with a professional.
- Strains and sprains: Strains happen when you push yourself too far and your muscles get overstretched and torn. Sprains happen when you push yourself too far, but you damage your ligaments instead of your muscles.
While one-time injuries happen suddenly and can be isolated events, wear-and-tear injuries occur over time. Also known as overuse injuries, these happen over time, as you repeat certain actions and movements that put wear and tear on your elbow. You can injure yourself working out, playing sports, or even in work settings that demand you to do vigorous repetitive arm and elbow movements.
- Bursitis: You can get it by repeating the same motion again and again, but you can get it from an accident or infection too. Your joints have small sacs with fluid in them called Bursa, to help cushion your bones, tendons, and muscles. These sacs also help your skin slide over the bone. When they get swollen, you will be in pain.
- Tennis elbow and golfer's elbow: These are 2 types of tendinitis, which happen when the tendons around your elbow get swollen from overuse. While the names make it look like only tennis and golf players get it, the truth is that you can get it even if you've never played tennis or golf in your life, so don't be fooled. If you use the same motions used in tennis and golf in your daily functions, work, exercise routine, or any other activity, you are likely to get it. The only difference between these 2 types of tendinitis is that tennis elbow affects the outside of your elbow and you'll feel more pain there, while golfer's elbow affects the inside, and you'll experience the worst pain there.
- Trapped nerves: If you've ever heard about carpal tunnel syndrome, you know it's a medical condition where a nerve that goes through your wrist is squeezed, which causes wrist and arm issues and difficulties. Well, there are very similar conditions that you can experience in your elbow. Cubital tunnel syndrome is when your ulnar nerve gets squeezed as it goes through your cubital tunnel tissue. This can cause you to experience either a burning sensation or numbness in your arm, hand, and fingers. Radial tunnel syndrome is when your radial nerve is squeezed as it goes through the radial tunnel very near to the outside of your elbow. This can cause you to experience burning and numbness on the outside of your forearm and elbow.
- Stress fractures: When you get a small crack in one of your arm bones, you have a stress fracture. This is usually caused by overuse and it's more common in athletes who throw a lot, such as baseball pitchers. The pain is worsened when you are throwing.
Many diseases can cause elbow pain, even though elbow pain is not a usual or main symptom of the disease.
- Arthritis: There are many types of arthritis that can affect your elbow, but the main ones for elbow pain are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. You have rheumatoid arthritis when your immune system attacks your healthy tissue, which results in swelling in your joints. When you have osteoarthritis, your elbow cartilage breaks down over time, which causes your bones to rub together and you experience stiffness and a lot of pain. Gout is another type of arthritis that happens when a waste product called uric acid builds up as crystals in your tissues. If this happens in your elbow, it can be extremely painful for you.
- Lupus: While this mostly affects your hands and feet, it can cause problems in your elbow too, because it's a condition where your immune system attacks healthy parts of your body, including your organs and your joints.
- Lyme disease: This can cause serious problems if you don't treat it early. Carried by ticks, Lyme disease happens when you have issues with your nervous system and feel striking pain in your joints, such as your elbow.
How can you stop the pain?
Based on the cause of your elbow pain, there are different things you can do to alleviate the pain. For example, if you think you've dislocated or fractured your elbow, you need to go to the ER right away. Even if you can still move your elbow, if it hurts and doesn't look right, don't second guess it and go straight to the hospital. Additionally, if you experience any of the symptoms below, call your doctor immediately:
- Elbow pain that you can't alleviate with rest and ice
- If you feel elbow pain even when you're not using your arm
- Swelling, bruising, and intense pain in your elbow
- If your swelling, pain, and redness gets worse and especially if you get a fever from it too
- Issues with elbow movement, such as when you have difficulty bending your arm
Besides checking with your doctor for professional advice and taking painkillers, perhaps the best thing you can do before anything else is to take some time to rest. This will give your body a chance to relax and start repairing itself. Something very important that will help relieve your elbow pain is heat or warmth. While old school treatment calls for a moist hot pack around your elbow and forearm, it can be quite a drag to deal with.
The goal is to bring blood flow and nutrients to your elbow to accelerate the healing process. You can do this very comfortably with an elbow sleeve. An elbow sleeve is kinda like a hug that surrounds your joint and puts just the right amount of compression on your elbow to enhance blood flow and keep the joint and muscles around it warm. The Mava CrossMax Elbow Sleeves are very comfortable and they stay in place, so you don't have to adjust them every 5 minutes – that can be annoying. Additionally, once you get your hands on these sleeves, you can be sure that you will use them for more than just pain relief.
If you feel chronic pain because you exposed yourself to overuse, every time you wear your CrossMax elbow sleeves, you will benefit from pain relief and they will enable you to use your elbow for your daily activities, such as exercising, stretching, typing, hugging your loved ones and shaking hands with people. Imagine if you weren't able to do that and had to avoid the things you love just because of elbow pain.
Furthermore, if you wear your elbow sleeves during your exercise and especially during those activities that require vigorous repetitive arm movements, you will prevent pain altogether. Keeping your joints protected and compressed will ensure that you reduce the risk of injuries, eliminate fatigue, and speed up your recovery so that you don’t have to worry about this big list of elbow pain causes and ending up in the hospital for them. Most people who ended up in the hospital from elbow pain or developed chronic elbow pain didn’t wear elbow sleeves when they were supposed to. It’s a small detail that makes a big difference.
If prevention wasn’t your strong point and you’re now recovering, make sure you take an active approach as soon as the pain goes away and start doing stretching exercises to keep your elbow healthy and pain-free. Elbow sleeves, especially on your affected elbow will enable you to do these stretches with little to no discomfort and keep your joint and the muscles around it warm so you can get a good stretch out of it and reap the benefits without any stiffness.
Elbow Bend & Straighten
- Stand upright with your feet slightly apart and arms hanging by your side.
- Keep your shoulder square and make a fist with both of your hands.
- Gently bend your elbows to raise your fists up towards your shoulders until you feel a stretch.
- Hold this stretch for 20 seconds, and then slowly straighten your elbows by lowering your fits down to your sides.
- Sit upright in a chair or stand up straight.
- Keep your elbow close to your side and bend it to a 90-degree angle so that your palm is flat in front of you.
- Gently twist your palm up and down while rotating your forearm until you feel a stretch.
- Hold this stretch for 15 seconds and then rotate your arm in the opposite direction to repeat the process.
- Do the same with your other arm.
- Sit upright with your elbow at the edge of a table.
- Gently apply pressure to your forearm using your other hand and push to extend your elbow until you feel a stretch.
- Hold this stretch for 15 seconds, then release the pressure.
- Do the same with your other hand.
- Start in the same position as described for the elbow extension.
- Grip your forearm with your other hand and pull it up towards your shoulder while flexing your elbow until you feel a stretch.
- Hold this stretch for 15 seconds and then release your grip.
- Do the same with your other hand.
Elbow pain is disabling and it can prevent you from fully enjoying your life, so don’t let it prevent you, make sure you prevent it! Think of what makes you do repetitive arm movements and try to do less of that for a while. Rest properly, because exhaustion and improper rest lead to over-training and overuse injuries. This can also cloud your focus and make it easier for accidents and one-time injuries to happen to you.
If you experience a one-time injury such as a fracture or dislocated elbow, immediately go to the ER! But consider avoiding these injuries by protecting your elbows and keeping your joints warm with CrossMax Elbow Sleeves. You will feel more confident and recover faster. As long as you care for your elbow joints with sleeves, stretches, and what your medical care provider advises you, you will be able to enjoy your life elbow pain-free!
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