Elbow injuries are slow healing and highly limiting because of how often you use the joint daily. Even with stabilization, over-the-counter medications, and other conservative care options, your elbow injury could cause long-lasting symptoms.
One option for treating a specific elbow injury to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) is called Tommy John surgery, or UCL reconstruction. This surgery often borrows a tendon from somewhere else in your body or a donor to replace the damaged ligament. The technique involves drilling holes in your bones to secure the tendon graft.
If you’re thinking this surgery sounds complex, that’s because it is. Tommy John surgery requires you to go under general anesthesia and has the potential for complications. Plus, the recovery time is long — you can expect it to take at least nine months with plenty of rest and physical therapy.
Double board-certified pain management specialist Dr. Glenn M. Flanagan, MD, offers cutting-edge treatments at Naples Regenerative Institute in Naples, Florida, that may be able to help you avoid this complex form of elbow repair. Opting for alternative elbow pain treatments can save you the time and trouble of preparing for, undergoing, and recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Understanding your injury
UCL injuries usually develop gradually. That said, they sometimes happen during a single traumatic event. These injuries are common among athletes who play sports that involve overhand throwing, like baseball, softball, or racquet sports. The repeated stress on your ulnar collateral ligament causes it to tear over time. UCL injuries are also common in children, particularly young baseball pitchers.
When UCL injuries happen suddenly, it’s usually due to a fall on an outstretched arm. Sometimes, part of the humerus bone also chips off in the event.
Dr. Flanagan evaluates symptoms like elbow pain and instability using advanced imaging testing as well as detailed physical and dynamic ultrasound exams in his office. He informs you of the extent of your injury and can provide individualized nonsurgical care. If surgery is needed, a surgical referral can be arranged.
Regenerative treatments work together with your body’s natural healing mechanisms:
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP)
PRP therapy involves:
- Drawing a small amount of your blood
- Processing it to concentrate the platelets and white blood cells
- Injecting the solution directly into the affected area
Platelets contain growth factors that promote tissue healing and regeneration. Other cells in the PRP help coordinate the natural mechanisms of healing. PRP therapy is often used for soft tissue injuries and can accelerate healing in ligaments and tendons all over the body..
Stem cell therapy
Stem cells can transform into various types of cells, including those needed for tissue repair. Stem cell therapy injects stem cells into the damaged elbow, stimulating the body's natural healing mechanisms. This approach promotes natural healing so you can avoid surgery.
Orthopedic medicine focuses on treating and rehabilitating musculoskeletal injuries like UCL tears.
A tailored physical therapy program is highly effective in rehabilitating and strengthening your injured elbow. Therapists work to improve range of motion, muscle strength, and joint stability while also addressing any biomechanical issues contributing to your elbow pain.
Custom-fit orthopedic braces reduce strain on the elbow and provide support as you heal. These braces are often used in cases of overuse injuries or ligament sprains.
In some cases, a cortisone injection may provide temporary relief from pain and inflammation. However, these injections are not recommended for long-term use because of their potential side effects. These are rarely recommended by Dr. Flanagan for soft tissue tears because they slow down and weaken the healing response, leading to worse outcomes.
The importance of comprehensive care
In many cases, a combination of treatments is the best way to heal your elbow injury. A comprehensive care plan should include accurate diagnosis, conservative treatments, and a gradual return to activity. Dr. Flanagan is highly experienced in orthopedic and regenerative medicine and can tailor a plan that suits your specific needs.
To avoid Tommy John surgery with professional orthopedic care, call Naples Regenerative Institute or schedule your treatment consultation online today.