Q.Last week while playing golf, my left elbow “locked up” and I had severe pain. Since that time the pain is a bit better but I can’t straighten out my elbow. I like to work out my upper body, but my elbow is preventing me from doing this. Will this go away or do I need to see a doctor?
A. Because you work out regularly and play sports, it is not unusual to injure your elbow. Most elbow injuries are overuse injuries that result in tendonitis and pain. These injuries, however, usually do not result in immediate loss of motion. These injuries are usually treated with anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy and modification of the workout program.
But because your elbow had sudden onset of pain and motion loss, you most likely have a bone or cartilage piece (loose body) blocking your motion. This piece gets stuck in the joint, limiting motion just like a stick in a bicycle gear would. I recommend you see an orthopedic surgeon to examine your elbow and get X-rays.
If loose bodies are the cause of your symptoms, then arthroscopic surgery is likely necessary to correct the problem. It is important to restore your range of motion quickly as the elbow can get permanently stiff in a short period of time.
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Dr. Harlan Selesnick is team physician of the Miami Heat and director of Miami Sports Medicine Fellowship, Doctors Hospital. Send questions to HarlanS@baptisthealth.net.