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Elbow Bursitis and Tendon Injury: Preventing Pain

Topic Overview

Bursitis or a tendon injury (tendinopathy) in the elbow causes soreness or pain in the elbow region, particularly when the arm is in motion. Pressing on the affected area will also cause pain.

The epicondyles are the bony bumps you can feel on the inside and outside of your elbow. Tendinopathy or epicondylopathy is a term used by a growing number of tendon experts to describe tendinitis (inflammation) and tendinosis (microtears) collectively. These terms aren't yet universally used. Your doctor may still use the term tendinitis or epicondylitis to describe tendon injuries to the inner or outer elbow. "Tennis elbow" (lateral epicondylopathy) is a tendon injury that causes pain on the outside of the elbow. "Golfer's elbow" (medial epicondylopathy) causes pain on the inside of the elbow.

See a picture of the elbow's olecranon bursa. Bursitis here causes pain over the point and back of the elbow.

To prevent and ease elbow pain during work, play, or daily activities:

  • Strengthen your wrist, arm, shoulder, and back muscles to help protect your elbow.
  • Do range-of-motion and light stretching exercises each day to prevent stiffness in the joint.
  • Use the correct techniques or positions during activities so that you don't strain your elbow.
  • Use equipment appropriate to your size, strength, and ability.
  • Avoid leaning on the point of your elbow for prolonged periods.
  • Don't overuse your arm doing repeated movements that can injure a bursa or tendon. Alternate hands during activities if possible, such as when raking, sweeping, or gardening.
  • During specific sports activities:
    • Use a two-handed tennis backhand and a flexible midsize racquet.
    • Avoid hitting divots with a golf club.
    • Avoid sidearm pitching and throwing curveballs.
  • Talk to your doctor about wearing an elbow sleeve, sling, or brace to rest a joint or to protect the joint area during an activity. These devices can be helpful. But they can cause joint stiffness and weakness if used for too long.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kenneth J. Koval, MD - Orthopedic Surgery, Orthopedic Trauma
Last Revised September 27, 2012

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