Everyone is familiar with Tennis Elbow and some with Golfer’s Elbow, but did you know that there is also a Weightlifter’s Elbow? This condition is known as Triceps Tendonitis and it is caused by repetitive motion which irritates the tendon which connects the Triceps muscle to the elbow. It can also be caused by doing a lot of push-ups, dips or any motion that puts a lot of force through the triceps.
Causes & Contributing Factors
• Sports, such as weightlifting, boxing and throwing, where are great deal of force is exerted through the triceps tendon
• Having poor form while attempting activity
• Not warming up adequately
• Having muscle weakness
• Not allowing enough recovery time between workouts
• History of prior injury
• Being overweight
The main symptom is pain at the back of the elbow. There may be accompanying stiffness and swelling. In more severe instances, the back of the elbow will ache and the patient will experience a sharp pain when extending the elbow, especially against resistance. The area at the back of the elbow may also be tender to the touch.
Activity modification, rest and intermittent ice packs should be utilized for at home treatment. Aleve or Ibuprofen should be taken regularly for a week for pain and to reduce inflammation. If after a week of following this regimen no improvement is noted, the patient should follow-up with an OSC Orthopaedic Specialist.
When a patient comes in for a consultation, x-rays will be ordered to rule out any other problems with the elbow, such as arthritis. A complete examination of the elbow will be conducted and the patient will be asked to move the arm and indicate where it hurts. The patient will be asked lots of questions about the condition, when it started, how long it has been going on, what makes the pain worse, etc. If a diagnosis of triceps tendinitis is confirmed, a cortisone injection into the tendon is usually recommended. This reduces the inflammation and pain and almost always shows positive results for the patient.
Physical Therapy may also be recommended and a variety of modalities, including taping, massage, electric stimulation, laser treatments, etc., may be used to support the tendon and aid in healing by increasing blood flow to the area. Gentle stretching exercises will also be recommended to increase strength and range of motion.
If the patient doesn’t respond to these conservative treatments, an MRI may be ordered to see if there is another reason for the problem. The MRI may indicate that there is a portion of the tendon that has been damaged or torn. If this is the case, an injection of PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) may be recommended to see if the tendon can be encouraged to heal non-surgically. PRP has been getting a lot of attention in Sports medicine circles because it has been used to get pro athletes back on the playing field quickly. This treatment involves using autologous blood donation, spinning the blood down into separate components, and re-injecting the healing, nutrient component back into the patient’s injured tendon. The patient will need to rest the elbow and arm for several weeks to allow for healing and may need to use a sling.
If PRP does not work, a surgical release of the tendon may be recommended. This is an outpatient procedure which involves surgically releasing the tendon, removing the damaged part of the tendon and then reattaching it to the bone. After a short rehabilitation period, the patient will be sent to Physical Therapy to strengthen and stretch the tendon and to regain full use.