Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine

Common Injuries - Elbow

Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)

The area where tendons attach to bones may become inflamed as a result of overuse. When this occurs on the outside part of the elbow, it is called lateral epicondylitis or “tennis elbow.”  It is treated with activity modification, icing and NSAIDs. Injections of corticosteroid or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) can be helpful. Surgery is very successful, but rarely needed because most cases will resolve with time and treatment.

Elbow Fractures

The elbow joint is formed by the articulations between the arm bone (humerus) and the two forearm bones (radius and ulna).  A fracture may occur in any of these bones, often as a result of a fall.  Fractures that are well-aligned are often treated non-operatively in a splint or cast. If the fragments are out of position, surgery may be recommended to re-align the bones so that normal function can be restored.

Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Injury - Elbow

This ligament is the primary stabilizer to the inside of the elbow. It can be torn as a result of trauma or repetitive overuse, such as in baseball pitching. It has a very limited ability to heal on its own. Overhead athletes may complain of pain and instability, and often lose accuracy and velocity. Reconstruction of this ligament, frequently referred to as Tommy John surgery (after the major league baseball pitcher who underwent the first successful procedure), is often recommended in throwing athletes.

Ulnar Neuritis (Cubital Tunnel Syndrome)

The ulnar nerve passes along the inside of the elbow, on its way to provide movement to the hand muscle and sensation to the ring finger and pinky. When one strikes his or her elbow, this nerve may cause shooting pain and pins and needles sensations (often referred to as hitting one’s “funny bone”).  However, these same sensations can occur when at rest or with normal activities - such as talking on the phone - due to inflammation or entrapment of the ulnar nerve. Physical therapy, NSAIDs and activity modification often lead to resolution. Persistent cases can be cured with a minimally invasive surgery to remove scar tissue or reposition the nerve away from the sites of entrapment.

Medial Epicondylitis (Golfer's Elbow)

The area where tendons attach to bones may become inflamed as a result of overuse. When this occurs on the inside part of the elbow, it is called medial epicondylitis or “golfer’s elbow.”  It is treated with activity modification, icing and NSAIDs.  Injections of corticosteroid or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) can be helpful.