4 Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Elbow Pain
Elbow pain can be mild or serious. Get it checked out today at The Spine and Orthopedic Institute at St. Vincent Charity, led by our experienced orthopedic surgeons Dr. Philip Stickney, M.D. and Dr. Brad Picha, M.D.
What type of doctor should I see for elbow pain?
Elbow pain can be treated by several types of doctors depending on the cause of the pain, severity of the pain and treatment needed. You can receive emergency care, urgent care within 24 hours or care through your primary doctor, as well as treatment through an orthopedic surgeon, sports medicine doctor, rheumatologist, physical therapist or athletic trainer. In emergency or urgent care, you could be seen by an orthopedist if one is on staff and available for patient treatment as they can diagnose and treat most elbow pain injuries. Your family doctor can also refer you to a specialist for treatment as they will have further training and experience on the causes and treatment options for the pain. Ongoing elbow pain should get checked by a doctor to ensure it isn’t a more serious condition and so a treatment plan can be started as soon as possible to avoid further injury.
How do I know if my elbow injury is serious?
Serious elbow pain that requires a trip to the emergency room includes broken bones, injury from a fall or other trauma, severe pain, possible dislocation, a bone is protruding through the skin or you no longer have sensation in your fingers. Permanent damage to and around your elbow can be caused by delays in receiving proper medical treatment for these types of serious injuries. You can also go to an urgent care center if the pain is severe or you’re struggling to move your elbow, but there is no obvious injury such as a broken or protruding bone. Other mild injuries to your elbow can be handled by your primary doctor through a regular office appointment. If you are experiencing ongoing pain that doesn’t go away after rest, if the pain is there even when the arm is not in use, the pain changes, the pain comes back when you resume physical activities or there is new redness, swelling or a lump around your elbow, it is best to get it checked by your family doctor to ensure it isn’t a symptom of something more serious.
What can an orthopedic surgeon do for elbow pain?
With their specialized training and experience in muscles, tendons and ligaments, orthopedic surgeons are able to quickly and easily diagnose and provide treatment options for elbow pain. Elbow pain can be caused by any number of everyday, repetitive use activities and if left untreated, or not allowed to properly recover, elbow pain can lead to further damage over time. Orthopedic surgeons are able to perform many different treatments and surgeries, if necessary, on the elbow. In most cases, elbow pain can be treated through non-surgical means as long as the injury is caught and treated early on. Receiving care from an orthopedic surgeon for an elbow injury will provide you with the option of surgery if it’s necessary in those rare cases without having to be referred to a separated doctor.
What causes elbow pain?
Elbow pain is caused from a number of repetitive use activities, arthritis, bursitis, tendinitis, ulnar nerve entrapment, sprains, fractures or dislocation. Common repetitive use injuries can be referred to as tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow, even if the individual doesn’t play either sport, as they are caused by a repetitive movement similar to that of a tennis player or golfer’s swing. There are two common types of arthritis that can cause damage and pain to your elbow – osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Inflammation of the fluid-filled cavity that cushions the elbow joint is called bursitis. When the tendons become inflamed and irritated, usually from overuse or repetitive motions, this causes tendinitis. Ulnar nerve entrapment happens when the ulnar nerve gets irritated or compressed through the elbow joint. A dislocated elbow is a common injury from trying to break a fall with your hand or an impact hitting your elbow. Sprains happen when the ligaments that hold the elbow joint together get stretched or torn. Breaking a fall with your hand, a heavy impact against your arm or other falls where your arm takes the impact can cause fractures or breaks in your arm.