The treatments for repetitive use injuries vary depending on the cause and severity of the problem, but there are some common approaches to treating many elbow injuries. Captain Laydon, can you tell us about some of these treatments?
I sure can, Major Spencer. For repetitive motion or overuse injuries, such as “tennis elbow” or any of the injuries commonly associated with overhand throwing, the first line of treatment is rest. “Tennis elbow” usually requires several weeks of rest from participation in sports or heavy work activities. Overhand throwing injuries may start with a shorter period of rest, but if symptoms persist, a prolonged period of rest may be suggested. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen may also be recommended to relieve pain.
Another common approach to treating repetitive motion injuries is changing your equipment, such as using a racquet with a smaller head, or changing your mechanics, such as changing your body position when you throw, to reduce stress on the elbow. Physical therapy may also be helpful in building or restoring forearm strength and joint flexibility.
In some cases, where nonsurgical treatments don’t do enough to relieve the symptoms of a repetitive motion injury, surgery may be recommended. Most surgical procedures for "tennis elbow" involve removing diseased tendon and reattaching healthy tendon back to bone. For athletes with valgus extension overload, or VEO, a procedure called arthroscopy may be used to remove bone spurs or loose fragments of bone or cartilage in the elbow. Athletes who have an unstable or torn ulnar collateral ligament, or UCL, may need their ligament completely reconstructed. You may hear this surgery referred to as "Tommy John surgery."
Rehabilitation following any surgery, whether it’s for a repetitive motion injury or a traumatic injury, usually involves physical therapy. A physical therapist may suggest a variety of treatments, including exercises to increase the flexibility and strength of the elbow, and to restore the range of motion. You may also benefit from massage, or the application of heat or ice. A physical therapist can design a program specifically for you, based on your condition.