Elbow pain can sometimes come and go, and sometimes it can be so severe and persistent that it makes daily life very difficult. Pain can make it difficult to flex the elbow, carry a load by hand, and squeeze hard. Generally, people with elbow pain wait a few days or weeks, hoping it will improve on its own. If the symptoms do not go away, you should see a doctor. So which doctor to go to for elbow pain? Except for a traumatic situation such as a severe blow or fall, the department you should go to for elbow pain is physical therapy and rehabilitation. Physical therapy and rehabilitation (FTR) branch deals with non-surgical diseases and treatments of the musculoskeletal system. There are not few people who think that the first place to go for elbow pain is orthopedics. However, the orthopedic department is broken, dislocated, deals with urgent or surgical problems of the musculoskeletal system such as bone tumors. Most of the causes of elbow pain do not fall into this group.
What Causes Elbow Pain?
One of the most common causes of elbow pain is lateral epicondylitis . This problem, also called tennis elbow, gives symptoms in the form of pain in the outer part of the elbow. Some of the muscles that move the wrist and fingers attach to the arm bone on the outside of the elbow. As a result of excessive use and strain, edema, inflammation and micro-tears may occur at this adhesion site. If a similar problem occurs on the inner edge of the elbow, it is called medial epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow). These problems begin as a mild pain or ache, and may worsen over weeks or months.
Swelling, temperature increase, limitation of movement, and pain in the elbow joint may indicate joint inflammation called arthritis. It can be involved in osteoarthritis, known as calcification of the elbow joint, and in rheumatoid arthritis, known as inflammatory rheumatism. Other rheumatic diseases such as ankylosing spondylitis and familial Mediterranean fever can also cause arthritis in the elbow. In rheumatic diseases, there may be symptoms in more than one joint and other organs of the body at the same time. If you have previously known inflammatory rheumatic pain, your elbow pain may be related to this disease. Inflammatory rheumatism patients are generally followed by physical therapy and rehabilitation or rheumatology specialists. First of all, you might consider consulting your doctor for rheumatism.
If there is inflammation in the structure called bursa outside the joint, not in the elbow joint , a ball-like, water-filled swelling may occur on the outside of the elbow. This problem, called olecranon bursitis, is usually treated with needle removal and cortisone injection. For olecranon bursitis, you can go to the physical therapy and rehabilitation department.
When to Go to the Doctor Without Waiting?
Sometimes joint inflammation may develop due to a true microbial infection. This condition called septic arthritis should not be overlooked and should be treated early. If there is an infection, the values related to the infection increase in the blood, and the person may have symptoms such as weakness, loss of appetite, and fever. The joint is hot, swollen and tender. If you suspect septic arthritis, you should immediately contact the emergency department or orthopedics department. In order to diagnose septic arthritis, joint fluid is drawn with a needle and analyzed in the laboratory and microscope. The treatment is to clean the joint with antibiotics and surgery.
If your elbow pain has started after a traumatic event such as a fall, traffic accident, violence, sports injury, if there is a crackling sound from the elbow, abnormal movement, extreme sensitivity in the joint, you should go to the emergency service or orthopedics department without wasting time.
What Does a Physiotherapist Do When You Seek a Physician for Elbow Pain?
The doctor first listens to your complaints. He may ask questions such as where exactly the pain started, when did it start, how did its intensity change over time, are there any other accompanying problems. In the examination, he examines your elbow, checks if there is swelling, tenderness, and whether the movements are normal. Hand and arm muscle strength, sensory and reflex examination can be done. Sometimes problems in the neck can also be felt as elbow pain. If necessary, he also performs shoulder and neck examinations. Some special examination tests support the diagnosis for lateral epicondylitis and medial epicondylitis. A preliminary diagnosis is made after the history and physical examination. Additional examinations such as X-ray of the elbow, blood test, MRI (MRI), EMG may be required to confirm the preliminary diagnosis and exclude other possible diseases. Once the diagnosis is clear, it’s time for treatment. The treatment of most of the problems that cause elbow pain is physical therapy. If it turns out that there is a problem that concerns another department, it can direct you to the relevant department.