What is elbow and wrist pain?

Elbow and wrist pain often results from overuse or repetitive arm & hand movements.This can be especially due to work activities, sports, household chores and hobbies incurring repetitive stress to the elbow/wrist.

Moreover, traumatic injury can cause soft tissue damage to the tendons and ligaments surrounding the elbow and wrist joints causing pain

What Causes It?

Elbow pain conditions

  • Elbow sprain
  • Tennis elbow (i.e. lateral epicondylitis)
  • Golfer’s elbow (i.e. medial epicondylitis)
  • Olecranon bursitis

Wrist pain conditions

  • Wrist sprain
  • TFCC injury
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • De Quervain’s tenosynovitis

What symptoms might you experience?

Elbow condition symptoms can include:

  • Elbow joint pain particularly with movement, and pain may be dull and achy or sharp in nature
  • Swelling and soreness may be felt at the elbow region
  • Pain with clenching of fist (golfer’s elbow) or with opening of hand/wrist extension (tennis elbow)
  • Weakness with gripping

Wrist condition symptoms can include:

  • Wrist pain particularly with movement/loading to the joint and improves with rest
  • Swelling and soreness of the wrist evident in traumatic injury
  • Weak grip strength associated with pain
  • Intermittent pins & needles in the thumb, index & middle fingers with wrist pain below the palm (Carpal tunnel syndrome)
  • Pain and paraesthesia worse at night with morning stiffness noted (Carpal tunnel syndrome)
  • ‘Squeaking’ sound or sensation during thumb or wrist movements (De Quervain’s)

How is it treated?

As with most musculoskeletal conditions, management must involve a combination of medical and physiotherapeutic treatments.

Medical management involves prescription drugs to relieve pain, inflammation and ease muscle spasm e.g. NSAIDs and muscle relaxants; topical pain relief e.g. analgesic patch; joint injection if recommended.

Physiotherapy management

  • Activity modification
  • Cold pack/ ice massage
  • Therapeutic modalities such as SIS therapy, electrical stimulation and ultrasound treatment
  • Manual therapy as tolerated (therapist applies hands-on treatment to alleviate stiff joints and sore muscles where applicable)
  • Therapeutic exercises to help restore pain-free movement and regain function
  • Dynamic/ proprioceptive taping (to alleviate pain)
  • Elbow strap or wrist brace may be prescribed (depending on therapist’s assessment)

Surgical management (in some traumatic cases e.g. fractures or when conservative management fails in persistent and severe cases)

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