The orthopedic surgeons at the Center for Orthopedics offer comprehensive specialty care for the elbow, forearm and wrist. We specialize in treating overuse pain, tendon and tissue damage and fractures, often using minimally invasive arthroscopy to diagnose and treat many conditions.
The elbow is a complex joint made up of three bones, cartilage, ligaments and fluid. Not only does the elbow flex and straighten, but it also allows the hand to rotate palm up or down. The elbow allows us to use our hands thus separating us from other life forms.
Although the elbow is a joint, it is not subject to the same wear and tear as the other joints in our body, but it can experience a variety of injuries not found in other parts of the body. Elbow injuries can be affected by hand, neck or shoulder movement and stress.
Common elbow injuries include:
Tennis Elbow: This is the most common injury of the elbow. Tennis elbow is the term given to an injury of the outside of the elbow. Injury occurs from repetitious movement of the arm that often occurs with physical work or sports. Pain can come on suddenly or over a period of time. Treatment usually begins with rest, anti-inflammatory medicine, ice and the use of a brace. If this treatment fails to work over a period of time, surgery may be recommended.
Golf Elbow : Associated with pain on the inside of the elbow. Known as golf elbow due to the increased amount of injuries with the beginning of golf season, but there are other causes as well. Weekend carpenter work or an occasional athlete can get this type of injury. Treatment protocol is generally the same as with tennis elbow.
Elbow Fractures : There are several different types of fractures to the elbow that can occur from a fall, a direct hit to the elbow or use of the elbow as leverage to move heavy items. Children often will fracture an elbow in sports, such as skateboarding or roller skating. Toddlers can get fractures from being swung by the forearm. Casting a fractured elbow is the most common treatment but occasionally, depending on the severity of the break, surgery may be required to ensure no loss of mobility of the elbow.
Elbow arthroscopy: With the aid of a tiny camera inserted in a small incision, orthopedic surgeons can evaluate bone spurs, torn ligaments, and arthritis. Instruments can be inserted to correct conditions that cause pain, stiffness and loss of motion in the elbow. Due to space constraints, elbow arthroscopy is a widely accepted treatment of new or existing elbow injuries.
Injuries to the forearm are typically the result of repetitive motion movements or sports injuries. Injuries can occur to the soft tissue or bones. If the radial or ulna bones are fractured at the wrist or elbow, it is no longer considered a forearm fracture. Treatment is dependent on the type of injury and severity of the injury and can range from rest, ice and sling to arthroscopic surgery. If one or both of the bones in the forearm are fractured, pins and rods are often used to ensure the fracture heals correctly and full use of the forearm is restored. Two common forearm injuries are:
Radial shaft fracture: The radial bone, one of two long bones in the forearm, is located on the thumb side of your wrist connecting the wrist and elbow. The radial bone rotates around the ulna when you twist your wrist. A fracture to the radial shaft occurs from a direct blow to the bone from an accident or sporting event. A radial shaft fracture is a fracture to the radius bone, often requiring surgery to heal properly.
Ulnar shaft fracture: A fracture to the ulna bone in the forearm is commonly known as the “nightstick” injury because it often is the result of a direct blow to the forearm.
Wrist pain can be caused by sprains, fractures or repetitive motion activities.The source of the pain is the determining factor for treating wrist pain. Treatment can range from rest, ice and aspirin to arthroscopic surgery. Common injuries that may result in wrist pain are:
Colle’s fracture: This fracture occurs when a person breaks a fall with their hands, palms down. When the hands come in contact with a stationary object, such as a wall or the ground, the tiny bones of the wrist can fracture, causing what is known as Colle’s fracture – named after Dr. Abraham Colle. Another name for this type of fracture is distal radius fracture.
Smith’s fracture: This is the same as a Colle’s fracture, but this fracture is due to a blow to the back of the hand or falling and landing palms up.
Carpal tunnel: Many repetitive activities or jobs can cause a restriction on the median nerve, which causes numbness and sometimes pain in the palm, thumb and forefinger. Splints, rest and ice often relieve the pressure on the nerve. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary. Carpal tunnel surgery now can be done arthroscopically through a tiny incision in the wrist, with most patients returning to work after just a few days.