Why does my elbow hurt? You might have Pitcher’s Elbow.
Athletes of all ages and playing experience levels, including those who are simply returning to a more active lifestyle or taking up a new sport, are susceptible to a condition known as “Pitcher’s Elbow.” For younger players it is known as “Little League Elbow” or Medial Epicondyle Apophysitis.
Despite its name, this type of sharp pain in the elbow or a sore elbow joint (synovial hinge joint) can be caused by a number of common movements in a range of different sports.
Sports Commonly Known for Pitcher’s Elbow Injuries Include:
- Olympic style weightlifting
Typically, this kind of injury is the result of stress on the elbow joint due to overuse, frequent repetitive actions, or overtraining, particularly when a person is repeatedly throwing an object.
What are the Symptoms of Pitcher’s Elbow?
The symptoms of pitcher’s elbow are caused from the repeated stress of pulling and stretching ligaments and tendons.
Elbow inflammation begins to build up and presents as swelling and pain on the inside of the elbow when straightening the arm.
Even in the absence of visual irritation in the area, a person with pitcher’s elbow might have a limited range of motion and experience severe elbow pain or feel as if they have a bruised elbow.
In most cases, inside elbow pain develops gradually, as a person continues to practice or perform a specific arm movement.
However, it can also be the result of a sudden pop in the elbow joint or a tear in the elbow’s soft tissue.
Anyone performing a repetitive exercise related to sports movement that places stress on the elbow joint could be affected by this injury. With that said, there are some groups of people who are more commonly susceptible.
Who Typically Suffers From Elbow Pain?
Anyone can suffer from elbow pain, but it is often experienced by several groups of people including the following…
1. Little League Baseball Players
Little league baseball players, principally younger athletes who are still growing and whose bones, muscles, ligaments, and elbow joints are not fully mature, are susceptible to elbow injuries from overuse.
In this case, “Little League Elbow” is slightly different than traditional Pitcher’s Elbow experienced by an adult although it shares similar characteristics. This is because younger players, usually between the ages of 8 and 15 years old, still have an open growth plate.
After 15 to 17 years of age, the growth plate is fused and the overuse condition affects the elbow differently.
2. Competitive Athletes and Sports Enthusiasts
Overtraining can ultimately lead to elbow strain and diminished performance during actual competition, especially among competitive-minded individuals working to perfect a specific movement.
Many times these are professional athletes who make too may repetitions with a specific move and overdo it to the point they cause pain and inflammation that leads to injury.
3. Amateur Athletes and Hobbyists
Improper techniques or mechanics are also a big reason for people to seek elbow pain treatment. This may be particularly true among amateur athletes or hobbyists who never had the opportunity to learn proper form from a qualified coach or instructor.
What is the Treatment for Outer and Inner Elbow Pain Caused by Pitcher’s Elbow?
There are a variety of treatment options for elbow pain caused by Pitcher’s Elbow. Here are 8 of the most common ways of treating it. The first four on the list are known as RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
Initial treatment for inner elbow pain and outer elbow pain is rest to reduce swelling and inflammation. Resting and taking a break from practice can be difficult for many athletes but it is a necessary part of the healing process.
Rest can also be supplemented with icing the affected area to reduce swelling and inflammation. Ice is a low-tech method of recovery with very good results.
Compression involves wrapping the injured elbow with an elastic bandage (Ace Bandage) to decrease swelling.
Elevation is used to raise or elevate the elbow on a pillow or soft surface above the heart when sitting or lying down to decrease swelling and throbbing caused by the pain.
5. Anti-inflammatory Medication
Prescription or over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen like Advil or Motrin will help reduce swelling and inflammation and will also help diminish the pain.
6. Physical Therapy
Physical therapy usually begins with easing elbow pain, followed by a series of exercises or training therapies to increase strength and the range of mobility for the affected area.
This helps not only during recovery but it can lessen the probability of re-injury when a person returns to playing.
7. EPAT Shockwave Therapy
Another effective and non-invasive method for increasing the speed of healing and limiting injury-related downtime is EPAT Shockwave Therapy.
This regenerative treatment helps injured muscles and tendons heal faster by delivering impulse pressure waves deep within damaged soft tissue.
With each session, deep muscle stimulation breaks down scar tissue in the effected elbow joint, which helps stimulate blood flow and reduce inflammation and pain.
There are many benefits to using EPAT Therapy for treating Pitcher’s Elbow pain and symptoms including:
- No surgery is required
- No anesthesia is necessary
- No scarring
- No risk of infection
- Faster healing
- Quicker return to sports activities or practice
In some cases, athletes can actually undergo treatment sessions while still maintaining some levels of performance even as they continue to recover from symptoms, depending on the type and severity of the injury.
EPAT Shockwave Therapy is quickly gaining popularity among sports medicine professionals for treating injuries and healing pain instead of surgery.
8. Tommy John Surgery
Tommy John Surgery, also known as Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction (UCL), is the most extreme option for some players in severe cases to repair a torn UCL on the inside of the elbow.
Unfortunately, recovery from Tommy John Surgery can take a year or more before an athlete can return to playing.
Seeking Treatment for Elbow Pain
Sports injuries are common for both professional and amateur athletes alike, and anyone who participates will at some point experience the discomfort of pain from a strain or injury.
Seeking proper treatment at the first sign of elbow pain is highly recommended as it can minimize the possibility of doing more extensive damage and circumvent the chances of playing downtime.
Performing an assessment and pursuing treatment for elbow pain early on is crucial to determine if the condition is actually Pitcher’s Elbow or something less problematic.