I hit an area of my elbow and had a burning sensation throughout my hand

I hit an area of my elbow and had a burning sensation throughout my hand

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I happened to bump the side of my right-hand elbow on a corner and suddenly felt a burning sensation on the right side of the hand elbow-up. Any theories that could describe what I recite?

It's often referred to as hitting your funny bone:

Heres one reference on the subject:

and here is another:,the%20ring%20and%20pinky%20fingers.

The ulnar nerve is exposed near the bones of the elbow, especially if the elbow is bent. You can probably locate it with your index. If you hit the ulnar nerve near the elbow, it can be felt in the little finger and one side of the hand.

Breast Burning Sensation

Breast burning sensation, a burning feeling in one or both breasts, can result from a number of causes, including a thermal burn, various diseases, or direct exposure to toxic substances or extreme cold.

Another possible cause of breast burning sensation is neuropathy, or damage to the nerves that relay signals from the breast to the brain and spinal cord. Neuropathy can be a result of a number of specific diseases and disorders, including diabetes and herpes zoster. In some cases, peripheral neuropathy has no known cause.

Depending on the cause of the breast burning sensation, it may occur in the breast only or in other areas of the body as well. A burning feeling may be the only symptom experienced or it may be accompanied by tingling (paresthesia) and numbness.

The duration and course of breast burning sensation vary widely, depending on the underlying condition. Symptoms caused by a burn often have a sudden onset, whereas breast burning sensation resulting from peripheral neuropathy develops slowly and persists or worsens over time.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) ifasudden breast burning sensation is accompanied by chest pain or pressure difficulty breathing dizziness or the feeling of a tight band around your chest, as these can be symptoms of heart attack.

If your breast burning sensation is persistent or causes you concern, seek prompt medical care.

What other symptoms might occur with breast burning sensation?

Breast burning sensation may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. The cause of the breast burning sensation may also affect other body systems.

Breast symptoms that may occur along with breast burning sensation

Breast burning sensation may accompany other symptoms affecting the breast including:

  • Bleeding
  • Blistering
  • Pain
  • “Pins and needles” (prickling) sensation
  • Redness, warmth or swelling

Other symptoms that may occur along with breast burning sensation

Breast burning sensation may accompany symptoms related to other body systems including:

  • Changes in sensation
  • Extreme sensitivity to the lightest touch
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nerve pain
  • Pain when walking
  • Reduced ability to feel changes in temperature
  • Sharp, jabbing pain
  • Tingling or numbness

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

A sudden breast burning sensation can indicate a serious or even life-threatening condition. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have a breast burning sensation along with any one of these life-threatening symptoms including:

Change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness

Feeling of a tight band around your chest

What causes breast burning sensation?

Breast burning sensation can be the result of skin damage to the breast and surrounding tissues. For example, burns and exposure to poisonous substances or toxic chemicals can damage the nerves in the skin, leading to breast burning sensations.

Damage to the peripheral nerves (peripheral neuropathy) can also result in breast burning sensation. Peripheral neuropathy may be due to specific diseases or conditions, such as diabetes or alcoholism, that can affect nerve health, or it may have no known cause. A small percentage of women with new-onset breast discomfort have breast cancer.

Physical causes of breast burning sensation

Breast burning sensation may be caused by physical causes including:

  • Breast trauma or injury
  • Burns, including sunburn
  • Exposure to cold
  • Exposure to toxic or poisonous compounds
  • Injury to nerve
  • Pressure on nerve

Diseases or disorders causing breast burning sensation

Breast burning sensation may be due to a specific, underlying disease or disorder that causes nerve damage including:

Alcoholic neuropathy (nerve damage associated with excessive alcohol consumption)

Cyclical hormone stimulation

Diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage due to high blood sugar levels associated with diabetes)

Fibrocystic disease of the breast

Rheumatoid arthritis (chronic autoimmune disease characterized by joint inflammation)

Shingles (reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, which remains in the body in an inactive state following chickenpox)

Sjogren’s syndrome (autoimmune disorder damaging glands that make tears and saliva)

Systemic lupus erythematosus (disorder in which the body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues)

Serious or life-threatening causes of breast burning sensation

In some cases, breast burning sensation may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting, including myocardial infarction (heart attack).

Questions for diagnosing the cause of breast burning sensation

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your breast burning sensation including:

  • How long have you felt the breast burning sensation?
  • Where do you feel the burning sensation?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • Are you menopausal or premenopausal?
  • When was your last breast examination?
  • What medications are you taking?

Pain in Your Hand, Wrist or Elbow? When to Seek Help

Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. But it doesn’t always tell you if you need medical treatment.

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So when pain develops in your hand, wrist or elbow, how do you know whether to treat it at home or see a doctor?

Orthopedic surgeon William Seitz, Jr., MD, who specializes in upper extremity problems, says if something is seriously wrong, you’ll know it.

A wrist fracture, for instance, will cause pain you can’t ignore. “When the pain is so bad you can’t move past it, call your doctor or head to the emergency department,” he says.

If you don’t have that level of pain, then listen to your body. Take a moment to consider why you might be feeling pain and what it can tell you.

Did pain come after a fall, or out of the blue?

In some cases, the reason for your pain is obvious — maybe you’ve worked in the garden for several hours or had a bad fall. In others, pain seems to come out of the blue.

“You may develop pain from infection, inflammation or an underlying metabolic issue like gout or diabetes-related neuropathy,” Dr. Seitz says.

“Also, the pain may be unrelated to your arm — for example, a pinched nerve in the neck can cause pain anywhere throughout the arm.”

Your activity level and the wear-and-tear on your body can also factor in, especially with joint pain, or various forms of tendonitis.

If you’re highly active, you can typically expect some pain in your joints as you get older. “Mileage plays a role,” says Dr. Seitz.

However, you shouldn’t expect pain just because you’re aging — it may never develop.

Assess your pain like an expert would

Health professionals determine which of their patients need urgent medical care using a process known as triage. You can apply the same technique at home.

Dr. Seitz suggests asking yourself these questions to decide what to do for your hand, wrist or elbow pain:

  1. Does it hurt if you press on it?
  2. Is it inflamed (reddened)?
  3. Is it swollen or stiff?
  4. How would you rate your pain on a scale from 1 to 10 (with 1 being minimal discomfort and 10 being the worst pain you’ve ever experienced)?

“If your answers to the first three questions are “yes,” or if your pain level is in the upper half of the pain scale (6 through 10), then it’s time to call the doctor,” says Dr. Seitz.

“If you answer “no” to the first three questions and rate your pain at a 1 through 3, you can start with treatment at home.”

DIY care for hand, wrist or elbow pain

If your symptoms aren’t serious, start by reducing the pain. Dr. Seitz suggests the following steps:

  • Apply ice to the painful area (if new onset) or heat (if present more than a day).
  • Take over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
  • Use a stretchy elastic bandage or other compression device to wrap the painful or swollen area.

If you can tie your pain to overexertion, or if you think it stems from repetitive motion (such as tennis elbow), take a break from that activity. Give your body a rest.

What if your pain won’t go away?

Even tolerable pain may signal a more serious problem when it persists. If home treatment doesn’t seem to address the issue after two or three days, contact your doctor.

Provide as much information as possible about your activities and other pertinent factors, including which medications or supplements you’re taking.

Your doctor will help to identify the problem, even if it’s an underlying issue causing the persistent pain.

“Most processes that aren’t worrisome tend to run their course in a few days,” Dr. Seitz says. “Acute symptoms — such as severe swelling, redness, pain or deformity — may need more urgent evaluation and care.”

Ultimately, taking a few minutes to assess your pain may help you avoid an emergency room visit for situations that aren’t serious.

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Nerve damage due to IV

As I have mentioned before, recovery from the nerve damage is dependent on how severe the injury is, which cannot be assessed from our standpoint. You could opt to observe for the moment whether the pain would decrease or resolve within a few weeks with concomitant pain medications.

If the pain is bothering you, you should go to a neurologist as soon as possible to assess your injury. He will be in the best position to answer your query on how long your pain will last and provide you with appropriate advise on treatment options.

Permanent damage can result when a needle point makes contact with a nerve.

“Nurse, I feel an electric shock going down my arm.” Would this patient complaint mean anything to you when you insert an IV catheter or draw blood? This feeling of shock is a classic symptom when a needle point makes contact with a nerve. It could result in permanent nerve injury — and malpractice litigation involving the nurse performing the procedure is not uncommon.

The two nerves most often injured during a venipuncture procedure are the radial and median nerves. The radial nerve passes along the thumb side of the arm, from the shoulder down into the wrist area, and is in close proximity to the cephalic vein. In a venipuncture procedure, the cephalic vein is often the vein of choice for many clinicians. The distal three inches of the radial nerve, just above the thumb, is the area most often injured during the insertion of peripheral IV devices.

The median nerve is the largest nerve in the arm. It runs inside the antecubital fossa and passes through the forearm into the palm of the hand. When nurses are drawing blood from the antecubital fossa or inserting peripheral IV devices, they could contact and injure this nerve. Insertion of IV catheters into the superficial veins of the inner aspect of the wrist above the palm of the hand can result in serious injury to the median nerve and carpal tunnel syndrome.

If a patient complains of an electric shock-type sensation radiating down into his or her hand as the needle is being inserted, the appropriate intervention is to remove the needle immediately. The outcome will be minimal nerve damage without permanent injury however, if the nurse continues to advance the needle farther into the nerve, a permanent, progressive, and painful disability resulting in reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) or complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) can result. Patient symptoms can include a mottled and cold hand and forearm, hypersensitivity to temperature changes, excessive nail and hair growth, and the inability to lift heavy objects. CRPS is diagnosed by patient history and nerve conduction studies. Treatment options include long-term pain control with narcotics, multiple nerve blocks, and even implanted morphine pumps, as well as splints, casts, and TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) units.

Best practice mandates nurses avoid areas of high-risk nerve injury by using landmarking techniques. The three-inch area above the thumb and the three-inch area on the inner aspect of the wrist should always be avoided since the radial and median nerves can be superficial in these areas. The risk of permanent nerve injury outweighs the benefit of IV insertion in these areas.

The Infusion Nursing Standards of Practice can be used in court to determine whether a nurse delivered appropriate infusion care to a patient. The standards state “site selection should avoid areas of joint flexion.”1 The wrist and antecubital fossa are areas of joint flexion. Insertion of peripheral IV catheters into these areas for delivery of infusion therapies can be determined to be deviations from the standard of practice. These deviations, with documented injury to the patient, can be contributing factors in a malpractice verdict against a nurse. When necessary, the physician should be notified that an alternative vascular access device will be required to safely administer the IV medications.

Nerve compression injuries are also related to infusion therapy. These occur when a patient sustains an infiltration of a large amount of IV solution into the tissues. The IV fluid in the tissue increases the pressure within the tissues, resulting in compartment syndrome and the duration of the high tissue pressure determines the amount of permanent nerve damage. Nerve compression is indicated when a patient’s arm is infiltrated and he or she complains of numbness and tingling within the swollen area. The appropriate nursing intervention is to stop the infusion and notify the physician immediately. An emergent fasciotomy, which consists of two surgical incisions along the entire length of the arm, is required to relieve the increased tissue pressure. The incisions are left open and, in some cases, penrose drains are used to aid in fluid drainage. A second surgical procedure is required to close the wound, and the patient will have extensive scarring of the forearm and hand.

Permanent nerve injuries are preventable by avoiding high-risk superficial nerve areas for venipuncture and by frequently documenting IV site assessments. Nerve injury related to venipuncture is one of the most common areas of nursing malpractice in which the nurse is identified as the primary defendant. Remember — listen to the patient. Remove the IV device immediately if the patient has symptoms of nerve contact during venipuncture, and avoid high-risk nerve injury areas.

Cervical Radiculopathy

Nerves that carry motor and sensory messages to and from the arms emerge from the spinal cord via spaces between the spinal bones of the neck, called the cervical vertebrae. Cervical radiculopathy describes abnormal function of nerves emerging from the cervical spine, which can sometimes cause elbow pain and tingling fingers. Cervical spine nerves can be compressed by bulging or herniated intervertebral discs -- cushions between the bones of the spine -- or bone spurs. This can lead to pain in the distribution of the affected nerve, often around the elbow, and tingling in certain fingers. Numbness and muscle weakness are also possible symptoms of this condition. Problems in the lowest of the cervical vertebrae are usually to blame for elbow and hand symptoms.

  • Nerves that carry motor and sensory messages to and from the arms emerge from the spinal cord via spaces between the spinal bones of the neck, called the cervical vertebrae.
  • Cervical radiculopathy describes abnormal function of nerves emerging from the cervical spine, which can sometimes cause elbow pain and tingling fingers.

Causes Of Cold and/or Wet Sensation On The Skin

A cold and wet sensation in random areas of the body and on patches of skin can become a very irritating situation which brings up more questions than it does answers.

The sensation is usually described as someone feeling something wet or cold on their skin despite there being no sweat or other fluids present, as well as no cold object nearby or wind that blows past. Affected individuals will also mention that it feels like someone has touched them with a damp cloth.

Affected individuals will state that these wet sensations are experienced in random areas of the body which can include the face, head, arms, legs, hands, feet, fingers, toes, back, and abdomen. The sensations may shift from one side to the next and even from one body part to the other. These sensations can involve one area, multiple mixed sites, or even the entire body and usually occur suddenly and at random times.

Anxiety and Stress

When one is anxious, the body responds by activating its stress response. This involves the secretion of stress hormones such as cortisol into the bloodstream which activates the adrenal gland to secrete adrenaline.

This is referred to as the fight or flight response since increased anxiety causes the body to enter a phase where it needs to act quickly in order to get itself out of danger.

Adrenaline is a Vasoconstrictor which means that is causes the blood vessels to narrow in order to push blood away from the peripheral areas of the body such as the hands, feet, and skin in order to pump blood to the essential organs and tissues such as the heart, lungs, and muscles in order for the body to respond quickly to any imminent danger.

When stress responses occur less frequently, the affected individual's body recovers fairly quickly from the physical and emotional changes that occur with the fight or flight response. However, when one is subjected to continuous and severe stressors, the body has a more challenging time in trying to recover from this response.

This can result in the individual remaining in a semi hyperstimulated state which can result in symptoms similar to those of an active emergency response.


Managing this issue will entail reducing the levels of the circulating stress hormones in the body.

These techniques have been proven to be effective in reducing stress and anxiety in affected individuals and will help to decrease the levels of stress hormones in the bloodstream which should help to reduce the perceived wet sensations on one's skin.

What Next?

Any new incidence of burning shoulder pain should be checked out by your doctor to enable a clear diagnosis and effective treatment. If the burning pain in your shoulder is due to a neck problem, physical therapy is often advised to work on strengthening and stretching exercises as well as postural advice.

If your burning shoulder pain is due to a problem in the shoulder itself, you may benefit from a combination of strengthening and stretching exercises - visit the shoulder exercises for a whole range of exercises that can help.

Burning skin sensation.

Since March 2002, I have been experiecing this God awful sunburned sensation on my skin in different areas. It started with a slight pain on my arms in 2002, went away, then came back in May of 2003 after a stressful period and attacked my face and arms. Long story short. I started Zolft in Septenber 2003 for depression that the burning caused and it took the burning away until December of 2003. It came back but was not quite as intense and it had been. It went away again and I noticed it occasionally on my face. Just last week (July 21st to be exact) I started aching all over and the burning started back a couple of days after that. My calves feel like they are burned, my arms have spots that feel burned, my knees have spots that feel burned.

I have had an MRI of my brain in Aug 2003, a neck and c-spine MRI of June 2002 - both were clear. I did stop the Zoloft back in May of this year and did fine up until now.

I have been told it can be Fibromyalgia. What in the world can cause a person's skin to hurt this way.

Please, if you have any answers or suggestions, I'd love to hear them. I'm 32 years old, have a 6 yr old son and a husband. I'd like to believe that it's nothing serious.

I've experienced burning and needle-type skin sensations on various occasions over the years. Sometimes they were very painful, sometimes there were visible effects. With a little research, and a few tests on myself, I was able to pinpoint what was going on with me and it is especially noticeable if i have already a little bit of reddened skin due to sun exposure, and/or on an empty stomach.

My vitamin supplements. Check it out, you'll find that symptoms of overdose and toxidity of many vitamins include skin reactions similar to the ones you're experiencing. If you're taking vitamin supplements, this may be the culprit and you should reexamine just how much are in those little over-the-counter multi-vitamin packets, and whether it's too much for you. Check the RDI/RDA of vitamins, don't trust the DVs (percentage ranks) that are usually found on those friggin' containers. Some of those companies are just nuts with the quantity they put into a single tablet, and this is only compounded if you are taking a mix of vitamin supplements in addition to a multi-vitamin.

If you are not taking supplements, vitamin deficiency, oddly enough, can also result in skin reactions. Too much, too little, a problem.

Hello.. I too am experiencing extreme burning pain all over my body. It started in Aug 2000 when i was involved in a car accident i fell down stairs in Dec 2000 and another accident in June 2002. Since these trauma, i have experienced off/on symptoms of burning sensation internally. nothing you can visually see or feel, just pain! From the top of my head at times, my face, arms, legs and bottom of feet. I saw a neurologist and rheumatologist earlier to no avail. I have been told i may have fibromyalgia, but no luck in finding a doctor to treat me for that -- or even one that understands what the disease is or how to treat it. I feel like everyone thinks i am crazy or something! Any ideas of what type of doctor I can try next or treatment will be greatly appreciated.

I have taken Neurontin off/on for two years now.. it worked before, but now seems to make symptoms worse. Help!

I have had the burning skin sensations since Sept 2004. It started in the clavical area on the left side of my neck and spread to the back of my neck. I was treated for shingles and was treated with Valtrex. It didn't help. Now burning has spread all over my face,arms and neck and left hand. It also is on legs and left foot. I have had so many blood tests to rule out lupus, RA, MS, etc. all of which cause burning. Rheumatologist wonders if it is drug-induced lupus, but all the blood tests for lupus were negative. Do have a positive ANA, but that is the only blood test that came out positive. I am on neurontin - 3 pills x 2 times a day. Also, rheumatolgist prescrived peroxican 20 mgs daily (NSAID). None of these seem to help the burning. Skin turns red when I get the burning really bad. Went to ER once and they told me to say away from anything with niacin in it (was taking silver centrum and stopped that). In fact, my internist took my off all drugs and all vitamins except for synthroid which I have to take daily. Also still taking neurontin and peroxicam, but like I said they don't help. My rheumatologist is concerned that the continued burning could damage my nerve endings if not controlled. I am very concerned about this too. So far, I have seen my internist, neurologist and rheumatologist, but I wonder if this could be endocrinology related. My internist also wonders if my body is producing too much histamine and had me taking a urine sample (over 24 hour period) and turn it into the lab. Did that yesterday, and it will take some time to find out.

Does anyone have any idea what causes this awful burning. I have it all the time and it is bad sometimes.

I too have burning sensation for past 2 years with all tests normal. My burning sensation has a few unique qualities - curious if anyone has any thoughts.
1. Feel perfect in mornings. The burning sensation becomes noticeable later in am's and is worse as the day goes on.
2. I have a horrible burning tongue that really drives me crazy.
3. The burning feeling is an all-over my body feeling.
4. I get chills and turn to ice feeling a few times a day.

Any thoughts? The dr's seem stumped. I'm a 45 year old male and otherwise healthy.

Tennis elbow and other types of bursitis

Bursitis is a painful condition that affects the joints. Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that act as a cushion between bones, tendons, joints, and muscles. When these sacs become inflamed it is called bursitis.

It is a relatively common condition, but many people treat it at home and do not see a doctor, so it is hard to know how common it is.

There are over 150 bursae in the human body. They cushion and lubricate points between the bones, tendons, and muscles near the joints.

The bursae are lined with synovial cells. Synovial cells produce a lubricant that reduces friction between tissues. This cushioning and lubrication allows our joints to move easily.

When a person has bursitis, or inflammation of the bursa, movement or pressure is painful.

Overuse, injury, and sometimes an infection from gout or rheumatoid arthritis may cause bursitis. Tennis elbow is one type of bursitis.

Share on Pinterest Hips, knees, ankles and other joints can be affected by bursitis.

Any bursa can become affected, but bursitis is more likely in certain places. People with bursitis will feel pain at the site of inflammation.

The areas where bursitis most commonly occurs are the:

  • shoulders
  • elbows
  • ankles
  • knees
  • buttocks
  • hips
  • thighs

When bursitis affects the knee, it is sometimes called “clergyman’s knee,” or “housemaid’s knee,” and when it affects the elbow, it is “tennis elbow.”

Treatment will depend on the severity of the symptoms.


Most cases of bursitis cases can be treated at home, with the help of a pharmacist and some self-care techniques.

Self-care normally involves:

  • Protecting the affected area: Padding can protect the affected bursae from contact.
  • Rest: Not using the joints in the affected area unless necessary. Bursitis responds well to rest.
  • Ice packs: Placing ice packs wrapped in a towel on the affected area can help reduce pain and inflammation. Alternatively, a small pack of frozen vegetables will do. The ice should not be placed directly on the skin. Ice packs for injuries are available for purchase online.
  • Raising the affected area: Less blood will gather if it is elevated, and this may help reduce inflammation.
  • Painkillers: Ibuprofen is effective as a painkiller and to reduce inflammation. Ibuprofen is available to buy over-the-counter or online.

Medical treatment

Medical treatment may be needed for more severe symptoms.


The doctor may inject steroids into the affected area. Steroids block a body chemical called prostaglandin. Prostaglandin causes inflammation. Steroids should be used with care, as they may raise the patient’s blood pressure if used for too long, and increase the risk of getting an infection.


If a fluid test confirms a bacterial infection, the doctor will probably prescribe antibiotics. These will be administered orally, for example as tablets, or intravenously, in more severe cases.

Very rarely, the bursa may have to be surgically drained.

A person with bursitis can have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Pain that increases with movement or pressure
  • Tenderness, even without movement
  • Swelling
  • Loss of movement

If the bursitis is caused by an infection, it is called septic bursitis. A patient with septic bursitis may have the following additional symptoms:

When to see a doctor

Many people treat bursitis at home, but if symptoms are more severe, they should seek medical help.

More severe symptoms include:

  • Joint pain that prevents all movement
  • Pain lasting longer than 2 weeks
  • Sharp, shooting pains
  • Excessive swelling, bruising, rash, or redness in the affected region
  • Fever

These may be signs of septic bursitis, a potentially serious medical condition.

Bursitis can result from an injury, an infection, or a pre-existing condition in which crystals can form in the bursa.


An injury can irritate the tissue inside the bursa and cause inflammation. Doctors say that bursitis caused by an injury usually takes time to develop. The joints, tendons, or muscles that are near the bursa may have been overused. Most commonly, injury is caused by repetitive movements.

Some causes of bursitis include:

  • Tennis elbow: Bursitis is a common problem among tennis players and golfers. Repetitive bending of the elbow can lead to injury and inflammation.
  • Clergyman’s knee: Repeated kneeling can cause injury and swelling to the bursae in the knee area.
  • Shoulder: Repeated overhead lifting or reaching upwards can cause bursitis in the shoulder.
  • Ankle: Injury to the ankle can result from walking too much and with the wrong shoes. It is common among ice skaters and athletes.
  • Buttocks: The bursae in this area can become inflamed after sitting on a hard surface for a long time, such as on a bicycle.
  • Hips: Some runners and sprinters can develop hip bursitis.
  • Thigh: Bursitis can be caused by stretching.


Infection that causes bursitis tends to be in bursae that are nearer the surface of the skin, such as those near the elbow. A cut on the skin is an opportunity for the bacteria to get in.

Most healthy people are not affected by bacteria entering through the skin, but people with a weakened immune system are more at risk. Examples are those with diabetes or HIV/AIDS, those who are receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer treatment, people taking steroids, and heavy consumers of alcohol.

Health conditions

People with certain health conditions are more likely to have crystals form inside the bursa. The crystals irritate the bursa and make it swell. Conditions that may cause this include gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and scleroderma.

Pitcher’s Elbow: Symptoms and Treatments

Elbow pain is a fairly common condition among baseball pitchers. Pitcher’s elbow usually presents as pain along the inside part of the elbow during, or after, throwing activity. This injury is usually caused by repetitive motion and stress at the elbow, resulting in pulling and stretching of the tendons and ligaments of the inner elbow. It can cause pain and swelling inside the elbow and can limit one’s range of motion. When the injury involves the tendons, it is called “medial epicondylitis”. When the injury is more advanced, it may also involve the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), which stabilizes the elbow during the throwing motion.

“Elbow injury in young throwers is unfortunately quite common. Baseball pitchers are especially at risk of elbow injury, due to the high stresses placed on the elbow during repetitive overhand throwing. However, other sports that require repetitive forceful motion and/or high stresses on the elbow can also cause pain and decreased performance.” says Dr. Gregory Gramstad, a Rebound orthopedic surgeon with fellowship training in shoulder and elbow surgery.

Common sports that can place an individual at a higher risk of injury include softball, golf, tennis, wrestling, football, gymnastics, cheerleading, and javelin– just to name a few.

Risk Factors

While pitcher’s elbow is an injury that’s caused by repetitive use, or in some cases, trauma to the arm, there are certain risk factors that can increase one’s chance of developing pitcher’s elbow. Some risk factors include:

  • Age – Younger players, especially those between the ages of nine and fourteen, are at a greater risk for permanent injury since their joints, bones, growth plates, and ligaments are still growing. More mature athletes can have a reduced ability to recover after stressful activity, resulting in overuse injury and pain.
  • Overuse – Pitching too many games can also lead to pitcher’s elbow. Research has shown that overuse in baseball can contribute to injuries such as pitcher’s elbow. If you experience pain while playing, it’s important to stop playing immediately and seek medical attention if the pain does not quickly improve or if it returns after resumption of throwing activity.
  • Throwing Curveballs – Curveball and breaking pitches put additional stress on the growth plate and can contribute to pitcher’s elbow. These types of pitches should be limited, especially for younger players.
  • Improper Pitching Techniques – Improper throwing technique can also cause pitcher’s elbow. Proper throwing techniques should be taught to young players to help reduce the chance of injury.
  • Certain Sports – While anyone can develop pitcher’s elbow, those who are involved in sports that involve forceful repetitive stress to the elbow are more at risk. Those sports include baseball, softball, golf, tennis, wrestling, football, gymnastics, cheerleading, and javelin.

Pitcher’s elbow often manifests itself as pain on the inside of the elbow. It most often occurs gradually, but in cases of severe injury, can occur suddenly, and sometimes with a pop or tear sensation. The elbow joint may also feel as though it is locked or stuck. Pitcher’s elbow may also limit one’s range of motion, causing the elbow to be difficult to move. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Treatment Options

The first treatment of most elbow pain from throwing is rest, to allow the elbow to recover from inflammation and injury. Conservative treatment options that your doctor might also recommend include ice, to help reduce the swelling, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

In more severe cases, other treatment options may be necessary to assist the recovery process and return the athlete to competition. These treatment options include physical therapy, throwing analysis and, rarely, surgical intervention.

  • Physical Therapy – Since there are multiple reasons that one may develop a painful elbow from throwing, physical therapy may be used to help to restore and improve mobility and strength throughout all the muscles and joints that are required to throw properly. While the early focus is to treat the pain, another goal is to help prevent the injury from reoccurring by improving the elbows ability to respond to, and recover from, stress. Improved strength and mobility will often improve performance when the time comes to return to competition.
  • Throwing Analysis – Repetitive throwing with improper mechanics can lead to a recurrence of pain, even when the painful condition has been properly treated. A trainer or therapist with advanced knowledge can use simulation and video analysis to detect throwing motion abnormalities and make recommendations to improve technique and, ultimately, performance.
  • Surgery – In more severe cases, surgery may be recommended. UCL reconstruction, commonly known as Tommy John Surgery, is used to correct pitcher’s elbow. This surgery is named after Tommy John, a former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher who first underwent this type of surgery in 1974. If surgery is required, physical therapy will be recommended as follow-up to help regain mobility, strength, and function. Rehabilitation and return to competitive throwing from Tommy John surgery generally takes a year, but in some cases two years are needed for an athlete to return to their previous level of function. The recovery process depends upon the age of the patient and the severity of the injury.

“The best treatment of pitcher’s elbow is prevention. Maintaining flexibility and strength, throughout the kinetic chain, are key to avoiding overuse injury. Using proper throwing mechanics, adhering to pitch counts and avoiding off-speed pitches at a young age can help to prevent permanent injury in throwers with immature elbows. If you have experienced sudden or recurrent elbow pain, it’s important to rest the elbow immediately and seek medical attention if the pain does not rapidly improve or if it returns after a short bout of rest.” says Dr. Gramstad. “We recommend having an evaluation by one of our specialists before returning to pitching or other athletic activities.”

Rebound is a premier orthopedic, sports medicine, and neurosurgery clinic located in Portland and Southwest Washington. For more information on pitcher’s elbow and available treatments, or to book a consultation, contact us today using our online appointment form or call us at 1-800-REBOUND.