Many people associate injuries with a "pop" or a sudden jolt of pain. Although these acute injuries happen occasionally, you are more likely to suffer from slower growing chronic use injuries like tendon or bursa inflammation (tendinitis or bursitis). Many elbow and shoulder injuries start with a niggling soreness and discomfort that devolves into something altogether debilitating.
Here are a few tips to help nurse your sore shoulder and elbow to prevent a chronic injury from developing into something more serious:
Tendinitis & bursitis
Tendinitis and bursitis are chronic inflammation caused by an overuse injury. Because you use your shoulders and elbows so frequently, tendinitis and bursitis are among the most common shoulder and elbow injuries.
How do you know you have tendinitis and/or bursitis?
Virtually every soft tissue injury manifests itself similarly, with pain and inflammation flaring up long after you've complete an exercise. Tendinitis specifically strikes tendons. In the arms, these connective tissues are concentrated near your shoulder and elbow joints. The following signs indicate tendinitis in the elbow and/or shoulder:
If you notice that your shoulder or elbow is swollen, you may have the first sign of tendinitis. One way to distinguish tendinitis or bursitis from a muscle strained or torn ligament is by palpating the area. By lightly massaging and/or squeezing the inflamed area, you can feel for signs of pain. If the inflamed area is sensitive to the touch, then you likely are not suffering from tendinitis or bursitis.
Stiffness and Discomfort:
Tendinitis and bursitis are rarely "painful," which is one reason way so many people who suffer from either condition fail to seek treatment until the problem has bloomed into something much worse. One way to tell if your shoulder and/or elbow are plagued by tendinitis or bursitis is if these areas are stiff after long stretches of inactivity. For instance, if you're a fisherman, you might notice that the first few casts of the day are accompanied by stiffness in your shoulder or elbow. This stiffness often morphs into mild discomfort after you've exercised the shoulder and/or elbow.
How can you stop tendinitis and/or bursitis from getting worse?
The only way to address overuse injuries is to stop doing them for awhile. Once you've ceased the motion(s) that are causing the overuse injuries, you should consult a sports medicine doctor or physical therapist to prescribe exercises and stretches that can improve your mobility, flexibility, and strength. Contact a facility like Interior Alaska Orthopedic & Sports Medicine for more information.