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Elbow Pain

The most common sources of localized elbow pain stem form either nerve pressure or tendonitis. Nerves which exit the cervical spine travel through a bundle called the brachial plexus and run through the shoulder, wrist and fingers. Irritation to these nerves can lead to referred pain anywhere along this nerve path. Nerve pain is typically a sharp, radiating, “tooth ache” type of pain. Tendonitis is very common in the elbow and is commonly referred to as tennis elbow (tendonitis on the outside or lateral epicondylitis) and golfer’s elbow (tendonitis on the inside or medial epicondylitis). The damage that tennis or golfer’s elbow incurs consists of tiny tears in the tendon and muscle covering. This usually results from trauma, repetitive motion, or overuse. The small tears may heal and tear repeatedly leading to hemorrhaging and the formation of rough, granulated fibrous tissue (scar tissue) and calcium deposits within the surrounding tissues. Collagen, a protein, leaks from the injured area causing inflammation. The resulting pressure can result in pinching of the radial or ulnar nerves which run through the elbow. Tendons, which attach muscles to bones, do not receive the same amount of blood and oxygen as muscle does and consequently heals more slowly. Symptoms of tendonitis include pain in the upper forearm just below the bend of the elbow, reduced range of motion, and increased pain with lifting or bending the arm or grasping objects.

Chiropractic and Elbow Pain

Chiropractic doctors aim to find the cause or causes of a patient’s health concern. For elbow pain this means not just examining the elbow itself, but also the nerve pathways running to and through the elbow to rule out irritation as well as the wrist and shoulder. Alignment issues are critical for optimum elbow function. A subluxated elbow can predispose it to tendonitis by altering the normal mechanics of the joint putting unnecessary strain to the tendons. Chiropractic’s success with shoulder, arm and hand problems is well documented.

  • Struijs PA, et al. Manipulation of the wrist for management of lateral epicondylitis: a randomized pilot study. Phys Ther 2003 Jul.83(7):608-16
  • Kaufman RL, Conservative chiropractic care of lateral epicondylitis. JMPT 2000 Nov-Dec 23(9):619-22
  • DeFranca GG, Levine IJ, The T-4 syndrome. JMPT, 1995, 18:34-37.