Elbow injuries are common in children and adults; although, they often have different causes depending on your stage of life. Elbow injuries may be acute, like a fracture, or may develop gradually over time through overuse. Fractures are less common in adults, but are normally the result of trauma, like a fall. Overuse injuries, like tendonitis or tendinopathy, are most common in adults between ages 40 to 60 years old and can cause chronic joint pain. These types of injuries are often associated with athletes, but can occur in anyone who practices a repetitive motion in their job or throughout the day.
Children are more likely to experience elbow pain from trauma, and elbow fractures are common in kids. If your child falls or gets hurt and their elbow becomes swollen, it could be a sign that they’ve fractured their elbow and they should be seen by a doctor. The elbow supports a lot of the important movements of the hand and arm, and a fracture may permanently limit its motion if not treated properly and quickly. Overuse injuries don’t normally appear until adolescence, when school sports are more demanding. Baseball pitchers are very susceptible to ligament injuries or chronic pain from constant use, which is why it’s important to make sure that all players have periods of rest. In the long run, it’ll be better to sit out a few games and give their body a break if it helps prevent injury.
Many breaks or fractures can be set with a cast and will heal correctly, although in some cases, surgery may be necessary to restore the joint. Treatment of overuse injuries normally starts conservatively, with rest, over-the-counter pain medication, physical therapy or injections. If conservative methods haven’t helped, then your physician may recommend surgery to correct the issue. Fortunately, Cone Health has an exceptional network of orthopedic specialists trained to diagnose and treat all types of joint injuries (surgically and nonsurgically) and return patients to their normal lives and routines as quickly as possible.
William Gramig, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon in Greensboro and is a member of the Cone Health Medical and Dental Staff. He specializes in upper extremity injuries with a focus on the hand, wrist and elbow. Dr. Gramig completed medical school and an internship in orthopedic surgery at University of Tennessee College of Medicine. He completed his residency in orthopedic surgery at Campbell Clinic in Memphis, Tennessee, and his fellowship in hand and upper extremity surgery at Indiana Hand to Shoulder Center.