In the past 10 years there has been a dramatic increase in different wrist and elbow pain conditions. Largely, it has happened due to an increased pressure on the upper extremities. We are always working on our computers, browsing or chatting with our smartphones. Blogging, tweeting, posting, and emailing have become our daily routine. Meanwhile, how often do we stretch and warm up our hands or elbow muscles?
Is this what is called repetitive overuse injury?
Lateral epicondylitis, more commonly known as tennis elbow, is the result of repeated contraction of the muscles used to extend (straighten) the arm and raise the hand. Pain typically occurs on the outside of the elbow.
Repetitive overuse is only part of the problem. It is truly a combination of factors of equal important some of which are:
Prolonged finger loads
Inadequate postural support of the spine and shoulder blades.
Why is that some people develop these musculoskeletal illnesses when colleagues who are doing exactly the same activities do not?
Different risk factors can predispose an individual to develop these musculoskeletal syndromes. They are:
To reiterate, the repetitive overuse syndromes in upper extremity are multifactorial disorders in which only the synergic action of various risk factors can push the individual over the threshold of clinical symptoms.
What are some of the most common conditions of wrist and elbow pain?
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Flexor tendon tenosynovitis
De Quervain syndrome
Lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow)
Medial epicondylitis (golfers elbow)
Cubital tunnel syndrome
Ulnar nerve compression (ulnar neuropathy) above the elbow
What elbow pain treatments are effective?
It is of the critical importance that activity moderation and modification is instituted together with physical therapy, as conservative approach is only affective during the early stages of the disease. Frequently patients tend to ignore the symptoms in the early stages further aggravating tendon/muscle dysfunction leading to chronicity and disability.
Unfortunately, surgical approaches in the upper extremity often offer less then satisfactory results due to:
Increased sensitivity of the patient
Complicated anatomy of the region
Increased use of upper extremities
Biological treatments like Extracorporeal Shockwave therapy show good results in combination with rehabilitation and activity moderation for some indications of elbow and wrist pain disorders.
However, best results are truly achieved when elbow pain disorders are treated early on and with best possible compliance to activity moderation.