Medical Conditions That Can Cause Elbow Pain
- radiohumeral bursitis bursitis is inflammation of a bursa. Bursae are small sacs that contain fluid to lubricate moving parts such as joints, muscles and tendons. Bursitis may be caused by repetitive use or frequent pressure or by injury to the elbow
- osteoarthritis the joint cartilage becomes brittle and splits. Some pieces of cartilage may even break away and float around inside the synovial fluid . This can lead to inflammation and pain
- referred pain injuries to the bones of the spine can irritate the nerves servicing the arm and cause referred pain around the elbow joint
- nerve entrapment the radial nerve is the main nerve of the arm. If this nerve cant move freely, it can cause pain when the arm is stretched out. The radial nerve can be pinched by vertebrae or the elbow joint. There is evidence to suggest that nerve entrapment contributes to the pain of tennis elbow in some cases
- ligament sprain joints are held together and supported by tough bands of connective tissue called ligaments. A sprain is a type of joint injury characterised by tearing of the ligaments
- bone fracture a heavy fall or blow to the elbow may cause one of the bones to break or crack
- avulsion fracture a powerful muscle contraction can wrench the tendon free and pull out pieces of bone
- osteochondritis dissecans in younger people, a piece of cartilage and bone can become loose in the joint.
Possible Reasons You Have Elbow Pain When Straightening Your Arm
- Tennis elbow Tennis elbow is the inflammation of the tendon that attaches your elbow bone to the muscles that control your wrist and fingers. Overuse or overexertion of the elbow in physical activities, such as swinging a tennis racket, can irritate this tendon, causing it to become inflamed. The result is a burning sensation and sensitivity when trying to straighten or bend your elbow.
- Bursitis Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursae, which are tiny sacs of fluid found in your joints. The bursae are supposed to prevent the tendons from rubbing against your bones and muscles, but overuse and overexertion of your elbow can cause the bursae to become inflamed. This causes swelling and tenderness that can limit your ability to bend or straighten your elbow.
- Biceps tendinitis Biceps tendinitis is the inflammation of your biceps tendon, which connects your biceps muscle to the inside of your elbow joint. Overexerting your elbow by lifting heavy objects can cause irritation to this tendon, which can be felt when trying to straighten or bend your elbow. Its also possible for this tendon to completely rupture, which will cause intense pain and can be identified by swelling and bruising where the biceps connects with the elbow.
How Is Tennis Elbow Treated
Its important to avoid the movement that caused your injury in the first place. Treatment may include:
Rest and stopping the activity that produces the symptoms
Strengthening and stretching exercises
If these treatments do not work, your healthcare provider may talk to you about:
Bracing the area to keep it still for a few weeks or use of a special brace with activities
Steroid injections to help reduce swelling and pain
A special type of ultrasound that can help break up scar tissue, increase blood flow, and promote healing
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Elbow Sprains And Strains
A sprain is the abnormal stretching or tear in a ligament. A strain is the abnormal stretching or tear of the muscle or tendon. Overuse and traumatic injuries, like accidents or falls, are common causes of sprains and strains. Elbow sprains are common in athletes that throw, use a racquet, or play contact sports.
Pain, bruising, and swelling are common signs of an elbow sprain or strain. You may have difficulty extending or bending your arm. Home remedies like rest, ice, compression bandages, and elevation can help. Tears can be more serious and may require surgery. Signs of tears include pain, swelling, bruising, and a bulge in your upper arm. If you suspect a tear, you should see an orthopedist a soon as possible.
When Elbow Pain Is A Sign Of A Serious Injury
Although the elbow is small, its a complex joint with cartilage, ligaments, fluid, muscles, tendons, and bone. It helps you with many different movements in your arm and hand, including rotation, extension, and flexing, often combining these motions at one time. Because of this, it can sometimes be hard to pinpoint what type of elbow movement leads to pain and when this pain is a sign of a serious injury calling for a trip to the doctor. Lets take a look at some signs and types of an elbow injury, so you know how you can manage elbow pain at home and when you need professional help.
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What Causes Arthritis Of The Elbow
Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease of the joint linings, or synovia. As the joint lining swells, the joint space narrows. The disease gradually destroys the bones and soft tissues. Usually, RA affects both elbows, as well other joints such as the hand, wrist and shoulder.
Osteoarthritis affects the cushioning cartilage on the ends of the bones that enables them to move smoothly in the joint. As the cartilage is destroyed, the bones begin to rub against each other. Loose fragments within the joint may accelerate degeneration.
Trauma or injury to the elbow can also damage the cartilage of the joint. This can lead to the development of arthritis in the injured joint.
How To Treat Elbow Tendonitis At Home
If people learn how to treat lateral epicondylitis, they can often successfully treat their symptoms at home. The initial steps should be done when pain and tenderness develop over the outer elbow area:
1. Rest the arm to decrease further injury.2. Apply ice wrapped in a towel or very cold water in a paper cup to the injured area for 20 minutes. Do this 3 or 4 times a day for the first few days to minimize inflammation and further injury.3. Elbow pain and inflammation can often be treated with medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or naproxen.
Doing these things when an injury that seems like elbow tendonitis becomes apparent can improve the speed and likelihood of a full recovery. Treating elbow tendonitis at home can save time recovering.
Other options for those wanting to know how to treat elbow tendonitis at home include a tennis elbow brace. Applying a tight compression brace over the muscles and tendons just below the elbow helps to keep these structures from irritating the tendonitis by pushing the forces when using the arm down the arm and away from the center of irritation. A brace also helps to let the muscles and tendons rest.
There are a variety of braces and compression bands for people seeking treatment for elbow tendonitis. Finding the correct style and fit is somewhat a matter of personal choice, but an orthopedic specialist can also be of tremendous assistance in choosing the best device.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Arthritis Of The Elbow
Symptoms of elbow arthritis can include:
- Pain. In the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis, pain may be primarily on the outer side of the joint. Pain generally gets worse as you turn your forearm. The pain of osteoarthritis may get worse as you extend your arm. Pain that continues during the night or when you are at rest indicates a more advanced stage of osteoarthritis.
- Swelling. This is more common with rheumatoid arthritis.
- Instability. The joint isn’t stable and gives way, making it difficult or impossible to do normal daily activities.
- Lack of full movement. You are not able to straighten or bend the elbow.
- Locking. Your elbow joint catches or locks. This can happen with osteoarthritis.
- Stiffness. This happens particularly with arthritis that develops after an injury.
- Pain in both elbows. Having pain in both elbows or pain at the wrists or shoulders as well as pain in the elbows is a symptom of rheumatoid arthritis.
Overuse Elbow Injury Related To Throwing Motion
Overhand throwing places extremely high stresses on the elbow. In baseball pitchers and other throwing athletes, these high stresses are repeated many times and can lead to serious overuse injury.
You can safely treat this condition on your own by resting the elbow. The usual RICE stuff applies . Physical therapy and ibuprofen also work. If things don’t improve, a doctor’s visit would be in order.
Top Symptoms: pain in one shoulder, shoulder pain from overuse, pain in one elbow, elbow pain from overuse, pain in the pinky side of the elbow
Symptoms that always occur with overuse elbow injury related to throwing motion: pain in one elbow, elbow pain from overuse
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When To See A Doctor
Most cases of elbow pain will get better on their own or with simple self-help treatments. You should see a doctor if:
- your pain doesnt improve after two weeks of taking painkillers and resting your elbow, and you havent had an injury or infection
- you have tingling, numbness or weakness in your arm or hand.
You should visit a hospitals accident and emergency department straight way if:
- you notice symptoms such as severe pain that stops you from moving your arm, swelling, fever, heat and redness. These can sometimes be signs of infection.
- you think youve fractured your elbow this will probably follow an obvious injury such as a direct impact or fall onto an outstretched hand. A fracture will cause pain and usually bruising and swelling.
Arthritis Of The Elbow
The elbow can be affected by various types of arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It starts with the loss of cartilage, which is a thin protective layer that covers bones in a joint. In response the body can grow bony spurs within the joint and there can be an increase of fluid in the joint space. This can happen without you feeling any symptoms. But it can cause pain, swelling and stiffness in a joint.
Osteoarthritis is not very common in the elbow unless youve injured it in the past, for example if youve previously broken a bone.
The following types of arthritis can also affect the elbow:
- rheumatoid arthritis an autoimmune condition that can cause pain and swelling in joints. Joints can be red, hot, stiff and tender to touch. Autoimmune conditions are caused when your immune system, which normally protects you from illness and infection, gets confused and mistakenly attacks the bodys healthy tissue.
- psoriatic arthritis an autoimmune condition associated with the skin condition psoriasis , that causes patches of red, raised skin with white or silvery flakes. It can cause pain and swelling in and around joints.
- gout a type of arthritis that causes pain and swelling in joints. Its caused by a build-up of crystals of the waste product urate in the joints. Affected joints can be very painful, and the skin can sometimes be red and shiny.
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Feeling Pain When Bending And Straightening Your Elbow Armor Pt Can Help
At Armor Physical Therapy, our team is ready and willing to help you address pain you feel when bending and straightening your elbow. Well start by doing a free screening on your elbow thats intended to pinpoint the cause of your pain.
Next, our physical therapists will create a therapy plan thats customized to your specific needs, and this plan may include therapy methods like:
Treatment For Elbow Pain
- exercises prescribed by your physiotherapist to gradually strengthen the tendons
- soft tissue massage
- taping or bracing your elbow
- anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medication can help you cope with the pain, but do not improve long-term outcomes
- surgery in severe cases, and if pain has not resolved within 12 months.
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Why Does My Elbow Hurt When I Bend It
We use our elbows for so many things every day. Lifting our morning cup of coffee. Holding our cellphone up to text a friend. However, many people take such common actions for granted until they begin causing them pain.
There are many issues that could be causing your elbow pain, and figuring out which issue youre dealing with is vital to treating your pain effectively. With a comprehensive assessment, our physical therapists can help you determine why your elbow is hurting when you bend it.
How To Treat Elbow Tendonitis Pain
Elbow tendonitis, also called lateral epicondylitis, is an inflammation of the connective tissue that fastens the muscles in the forearm to the elbow. The tendons attach to the outside edge of the upper arm bone , where it meets the elbow. This type of elbow pain is also called tennis elbow. Learning how to treat elbow tendonitis is a good thing to know before the tendonitis pain occurs.
Tendonitis is caused by overuse of the forearm muscles, but playing a lot of tennis with its repetitive forearm motion is only one way of irritating these tendons. Plumbers, carpenters, and painters commonly develop tennis elbow as they engage in repetitive motions, too. Knowing how to treat elbow tendonitis is useful for different kinds of people who develop this elbow pain.
Other athletes also develop elbow tendonitis such as golfers and baseball players. The typical age for developing tendonitis is 30 to 50 years, but this varies widely. Every year, 1% to 3% of the population gets elbow tendonitis. Knowing how to treat elbow tendonitis is important for everyone as anyone can develop this painful condition.
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What Can I Do When I Have Elbow Pain When Bending And Straightening It
Answering this question first requires that you learn whats causing these symptoms. One likely cause is known as lateral epicondylitis, and this condition is more commonly called tennis elbow.
Researchers report that every year tennis elbow affects up to 3% of the U.S. population. It commonly causes pain when bending or straightening the elbow. This issue can also lead to symptoms like a weakening of your grip, as well as swelling and pain in the forearm or wrist. Physical therapists can help you find ways to treat the symptoms of tennis elbow.
Why Does My Elbow Hurt And What To Do About It
Have you ever asked yourself, why does my elbow hurt when I extend it?
What about if your elbow pops when you grab or lift something? Do you also feel pain then?
Real-life scenarios like these connect to chronic elbow pain. In fact, around 1 million Americans living in the US alone suffer from this condition every year.
If the pain occurs too frequently, you might be part of that statistic. Read below to find out more about why your elbow hurts and what you should do about it.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Elbow Injury
Unlike other joints, elbow injuries are not commonly due to arthritis or other wear-and-tear causes. Many times, elbow pain is caused by activities using repetitive motion in the arm, hand or wrist, including in sports, hobbies, or work. Injuries caused by this type of repetitive use are often called overuse injuries.
Signs of an elbow injury may include the following
- Pain during, or right after, using the elbow in an activity such as throwing
- Elbow stiffness
- Pain while making a fist
- Visible deformity
- Numbness or tingling in the elbow, arm, wrist or hands.
When To See A Doctor About Elbow Tendonitis
While it is very valuable to know how to treat elbow tendonitis as most cases can successfully be treated at home, improper treatment or no treatment usually results in tendonitis lasting six months to 2 years before resolving. During this time, pain and disability occur daily. If a patient employs the various treatment strategies for 6 to 12 months without significant improvement, surgery may be recommended.While rarely necessary, when surgery is needed, it is usually done arthroscopically or with an open incision made over the outer elbow. The abnormal and inflamed tissue is removed, and after a brief recovery period, most surgical patients do extremely well. Patients still need to understand how to treat elbow tendonitis because part of the healing process will involve the same exercises as patients who have not had surgery. Ultimately, only about 10% or fewer patients will require some sort of surgical treatment.
It is necessary to see an orthopedic specialist if you know how to treat elbow tendonitis and have been treating it with no improvement after a few weeks or months. While it is often gradual, some improvement should be obvious within the first few weeks. Also, when you have questions about diagnosis, treatment options, or exercises for your elbow, finding the best orthopedic specialists is easy.
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What Are The Treatments For Burning Pain In Elbow
Conservative approach is the best way to treat burning pain in elbow, although surgical correction is required rarely to get rid of burning pain in elbow.
The treatment for this differs depending on what exactly is causing the burning pain in elbow, is it the muscle, tendon, or ligament, inflammation or tear. So, the first thing to do is to stay away from activities that may aggravate the condition like not pushing or pulling heavy objects, not playing sports for some time till the condition heals up.
What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
- Why did I get tennis elbow?
- What is the best treatment for tennis elbow?
- What changes should I make to manage symptoms?
- What changes should I make to prevent the problem from happening again?
- Should I watch for signs of complications?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Anyone who does activities or a job that requires repetitive arm motions can get tennis elbow. See your healthcare provider if bending and straightening your arm causes pain or your outer elbow is tender to touch. Your provider can offer suggestions to reduce pain and inflammation. Rarely, people with tennis elbow need surgery. With proper treatment, you can safely return to the work or activities you enjoy pain-free.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/17/2021.
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