How to Get Rid of Elbow Pain: Home Remedies & Medical Treatments

How to Get Rid of Elbow Pain: Home Remedies & Medical Treatments

Elbow pain can make even the simplest tasks in your daily routine seem daunting. But don't worry; several proven methods help you combat this discomfort. From massage tools to orthosis supports to steroid injections, a range of non-invasive treatments are available to ease your pain.

Suppose you’re dealing with a severe or chronic case of tennis elbow. In that case, you might find relief in modern medical solutions that are more involved, such as tendon reconstruction or minimally invasive surgery. These methods may restore your elbow strength, improve your function, and, most importantly, reduce pain. Let’s explore all of these options.

Common Causes of Elbow Pain

To understand how to alleviate the discomfort of your elbow pain, it's crucial to first know the cause. Certain baseline conditions can lead to repeated stress, discomfort, and deterioration. Three of the most common causes of elbow pain include:

  • Tennis elbow: Associated with repetitive forearm muscle movements, tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) got its moniker from the athletes who frequently suffer from this condition. But it’s not exclusive to them. Painters, plumbers, cooks, and others are also predisposed to this condition. Symptoms include tenderness and pain on the outer part of the elbow.
  • Golfer’s elbow: Similar to tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow primarily affects the tendons inside the elbow. It gets its name from the golfers who frequently deal with this condition. However, it can affect anyone who continuously performs gripping and twisting motions in their daily work, such as carpenters or those who regularly use a computer mouse.
  • Arthritis: Another possible root cause of elbow pain is arthritis, which is an underlying medical condition versus an overuse injury. It merits more aggressive treatment when conservative methods like rest and activity modification fail to improve symptoms. Pain relief may require physiotherapy or corticosteroid injections to strengthen the muscles around the elbow and reduce inflammation.

Home Remedies

Elbow pain can hinder your range of motion and make even straightforward everyday tasks a chore. But there are home treatments you can employ to help manage your symptoms more effectively. Remember, understanding the root cause of your elbow pain should guide your treatment. So, suppose you’re unsure what’s causing your pain. In that case, it may be necessary to first receive a diagnosis from a health professional.

  • Foam rolling: Also known as self-myofascial release, this technique can help manage your elbow pain. Foam rolling works by applying pressure to troublesome spots. It helps relax overworked muscles and reduce stress on surrounding joints.
  • Rest: Allow your overworked muscles a break. Rest can be the ultimate remedy for an aching elbow. However, be mindful of potential joint stiffness resulting from prolonged muscle rest. Strike a balance by slowly resuming your activities while incorporating range-of-motion exercises into your daily routine.
  • Ice therapy: Immediately applying ice to the painful area may reduce inflammation and swelling. Use the ice or frozen gel packs with a towel to avoid ice burns. Apply the cold compress for 15 to 20 minutes, three to four times daily.
  • Compression: Securely wrapping the affected joint area with a bandage or brace can be an effective form of support and pain management. This may help minimize swelling by reducing fluid accumulation in the area.
  • Elevation: Another way to reduce swelling is to raise your affected body part — in this case, your elbow — above the level of your heart. In minimizing the swelling, elevating your injury can also help to alleviate your pain.
  • Stretching: When it comes to maintaining mobility and flexibility, stretching is essential. Incorporate gentle stretching exercises into your daily routine to relieve pain, increase your range of motion, reduce inflammation, and strengthen the muscles around your elbow joint. This will also help you stave off future injuries.

Medical Treatments

Acute elbow pain doesn’t necessarily mean you must live with a permanently limited range of motion or give up your favorite activities. But suppose your condition is too severe or home remedies aren’t effective. In that case, you might require professional help to restore your quality of life. More advanced medical treatments include: 

  • Physical therapy: During a session, the therapist will identify the leading cause of your pain and suggest activities to ease the discomfort. This might involve showing you how to relieve tennis elbow pain with foam rolling, modifying your everyday activities, or other techniques. The goal is to return your elbow to its prior level of function. 
  • Medications: If the pain persists while resting (for example, overnight), you might require medication for pain relief. Depending on your case of pain, there are different pain relief medications your doctor may recommend, ranging from over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to prescription-only substances.
  • Injections: Severe pain or pain due to an underlying medical condition like arthritis might call for more aggressive treatment measures, such as corticosteroid injections, to help reduce your inflammation and pain.

Surgical Options

Home remedies and nonsurgical treatments may not provide enough relief for elbow pain. Surgery could be required if your symptoms haven’t significantly improved within six to 12 months.

Arthroscopy, also known as keyhole surgery, is a surgical procedure that allows surgeons to explore and repair your elbow joint without making large incisions. This minimally invasive procedure requires them to insert a camera (arthroscope) and specialized surgery instruments to give the surgeon a clear view of the damaged areas. It's an incredibly effective treatment for injuries like tennis elbow.

In the case of a severely torn ligament, ligament reconstruction may be necessary. Doctors may choose to repair an open tendon when a tendon tear is large or the tissue damage is severe. Despite being more complex and typically involving multiple procedures, this surgery can effectively treat intricate elbow injuries. You may need a supportive bandage, brace, or orthosis during recovery.

Prevention Tips for Elbow Pain

Preventing elbow pain is essential whether you're a zealous tennis player, an enthusiastic gardener, or an office worker who spends hours typing away. These tips will help you keep elbow pain at bay so you don’t have to give up any of the everyday activities you love doing.

Use Proper Technique in Sports & Exercises

Believe it or not, how you move during your workout significantly impacts your elbow health. For instance, using the proper technique while playing tennis or golf can minimize your risk of developing conditions like tennis elbow or golfer's elbow.

Ensure you're carrying out your exercises correctly — especially ones that strain your elbows, like lifting weights or doing push-ups. If you need more certainty about the correct form, hire a trainer or consult a physiotherapist. It'll be worth it in the end.

Wear Protective Gear

As much as we strive to engage in daily activities or sports safely, we sometimes can't avoid circumstances that put stress or pressure on our elbows. This is where protective gear comes into play. One of the most effective ways to prevent elbow pain is to wear a strapping support bandage, brace, or splint, often called an orthosis.

Consider using protective gear if your activities are high-contact or high-risk (like certain sports or heavy lifting). These support mechanisms help stabilize your elbow, alleviate pressure, and maintain proper alignment during your activity. Always choose gear that fits properly and doesn't restrict your blood flow.

Stretch & Foam Roll Regularly

Incorporating a regular stretching and foam rolling routine into your day can be a game changer when combating elbow pain. Regular stretches can increase your flexibility, while foam rolling can improve your range of motion and boost circulation to your joints. While using a foam roller can be uncomfortable at first, it will help you prevent elbow tendinitis in the future.

If your job or hobby involves repetitive movements (such as typing or painting), taking short stretch or foam roll breaks every hour can help reduce the stress on your elbows. If you need help figuring out where to start, seek advice from a physiotherapist. They can help you avoid foam rolling mistakes and develop a routine that safely targets your elbows, shoulders, and wrists to promote flexibility and strengthen your entire arm.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long should elbow pain last?

Elbow pain can vary, but typically, new or flaring pain should start to ease within six weeks. If the pain persists longer, seek advice from a healthcare professional.

What is the fastest way to heal elbow tendonitis?

To heal elbow tendinitis in the short term requires rest. Healing elbow tendonitis in the longer term commonly involves “eccentric strengthening,” a specific type of strengthening move that lengthens your muscles. Begin performing these exercises only after your flexibility improves and your pain generally decreases. Additionally, you may benefit from carefully foam rolling your forearms or the other areas around the troubled joint. Consult a licensed professional for guidance first.  

How do I know if my elbow pain is severe?

Signs of severe elbow pain include a sudden injury accompanied by a snap or cracking sound, severe pain, swelling, bruising near the joint, and difficulty in your regular elbow movements or arm rotation.

What does bursitis in the elbow feel like?

Elbow bursitis symptoms usually include swelling near the elbow, pain when you move the elbow, and potentially discoloration and warmth around the area, mainly caused by an infection.

How should I sleep to relieve elbow pain?

Lie on your back to relieve elbow pain while trying to sleep. Side-sleeping can exacerbate tennis elbow by limiting blood flow to the affected tendons. Sleeping on your back alleviates the pressure on your arm, promoting healing during rest.

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