As with other orthopedic injuries, diagnosing an elbow injury involves several steps, including a medical history, physical examination, and possibly one or more diagnostic tests. Dr. Patel, can you tell us more about diagnosing elbow injuries?
Of course, Major Spencer. First a medical history is taken to help the provider understand any previous conditions or injuries that might affect your current condition. During the medical history, the provider will ask how long symptoms have been present and what problems you’re having using your elbow. The provider will also ask about any injury, condition, or health issue that might be causing the problem.
During the physical examination, the provider will often examine your arm and elbow for tenderness or swelling. They may apply pressure to various muscles and move your elbow in various directions to assess your range of motion. You may also be asked to perform a variety of stretches and movements.
Depending on the findings of the medical history and physical exam, providers may use one or more diagnostic tests to more accurately determine the nature of your elbow problem. Some of the more commonly used tests include x-rays and MRIs. Each of these tests has its primary use. X-rays identify bone injuries. MRIs are effective at showing injuries to soft tissues, such as cartilage and ligaments.
These tests may be ordered immediately after the injury, or your provider may recommend waiting until after the initial swelling and bruising have resolved. Your provider will discuss the various tests with you, and suggest those that are most appropriate for your condition.