The elbow is a complex joint involved in rotating, extending, and flexing your hand and forearm. An elbow injury can significantly disrupt your lifestyle or sport.

Experts at Inova Sports Medicine provide comprehensive treatment for elbow injuries to restore your elbow to its full function. Our goal is to for you to return to the activities you enjoy, without pain.

Treating Elbow Injuries at Inova Sports Medicine

Treatment for elbow injuries depends on the cause of your pain. Treatment may be as simple as resting the joint or learning how to move your hands, finger or lower arm correctly to avoid a repetitive motion injury that causes elbow pain.

At Inova, our sports medicine experts will discuss your goals and lifestyle needs to determine a treatment plan. We have a full range of services onsite, including sports medicine physicians and physical therapists, so we can provide you with a prompt assessment and follow-up care.

At our center, you will find:

  • Expert care: Our physicians are board certified in both sports medicine and orthopaedic surgery, should your elbow injury require surgery.
  • Prompt attention: We work quickly to diagnose and treat your injury. Our team of sports medicine specialists delivers effective, personalized care so you can return to your active lifestyle.
  • Convenient services: We provide all the services you need within the Inova health system. From imaging scans to arthroscopic surgery (minimally invasive joint surgery) to a robust physical therapy program, you can get everything you need right here at Inova. For your convenience, we also offer physical therapy at our many regional centers. We do not offer surgery on site.
  • Ongoing support: We coordinate follow-up care with your athletic trainer, coach or supervisor at work to ensure a safe, smooth recovery.

Elbow Injuries We Treat

Elbow injuries are common, especially for athletes in baseball, tennis, golf and weight lifting. Anyone who engages in activities that require a repetitive motion of the muscles and tendons of the forearm may be susceptible to an elbow injury.

When you sustain an elbow injury, one of our sports medicine specialists will thoroughly assess your elbow pain. To diagnose the exact cause of the pain, we may recommend an X-ray, MRI or electromyography (a test to evaluate the health of your muscles and nerve cells).

The most common elbow injuries we treat are:

Also called medial epicondylitis, this injury is typically caused by forceful, repeated or excessive wrist and finger motion that damage the muscle and tendons on the inside of your forearm. Pain associated with golfer’s elbow may appear suddenly or develop gradually.

Treatment usually involves:

  • Resting the joint
  • Icing your elbow
  • Taking over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Correcting or adjusting your swing or other repetitive movements
  • Surgery, for an athlete severely compromised by baseball elbow

Also called lateral epicondylitis, this injury results from repetitive motion or excessive strain and affects the muscles and tendons in your forearm. A backhand stroke in tennis or any repetitive, backward motion with your hand and wrist may cause tennis elbow.

Treatments for tennis elbow include:

  • Rest
  • Applying ice
  • Bracing
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Surgery to remove damaged tissue and re-attach the healthy muscle to the bone

Bursitis occurs when a bursa (a small, fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion between bones and soft tissues) becomes inflamed and produces excess fluid, resulting in swelling and pain. A hard blow to your elbow or a medical condition such as rheumatoid arthritis can cause elbow bursitis.

Treatment for elbow olecranon bursitis includes:

  • Removing the fluid with a needle (needle aspiration)
  • Taking antibiotics if the bursa is infected
  • Wearing elbow pads
  • Changing activities
  • Surgery to remove an inflamed bursa, if it did not respond to other treatments

Cartilage and a small layer of bone can separate from a joint and migrate into the joint space and cause pain or make the joint feel unstable. When this happens, it can cause pain or ake the joint feel unstable. OCD is most common in the knees, but can also develop in the elbows, ankles, shoulders and hips.

Treatment for OCD includes:

  • Surgery to secure or remove the loose piece of bone
  • Resting the joint
  • Bandaging or bracing the joint
  • Over-the-counter pain relief

Cubital tunnel syndrome is a disorder of the ulnar nerve, also called your “funny bone,” which runs inside your elbow. Treatment includes:

  • Protecting the joint
  • Avoiding positions that can aggravate the nerve and cause pain and numbness
  • Surgery, if needed, to release pressure on the nerve or return the nerve to its correct position

Your biceps is the muscle in your upper arm, between your shoulder and elbow. Tendons attach your muscles to the bone. When you tear your biceps tendon, your arm may feel weak and you may experience pain. Falling hard on your arm or lifting something too heavy may cause biceps tendon ruptures. Overuse of the tendon may also cause a rupture. The tendon can either rupture at the shoulder or the elbow insertion.

Treatment includes:

  • Rest
  • Applying ice
  • Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications
  • Physical therapy to restore movement and strength
  • Surgery, often recommended when the tendon tears at the elbow insertion