Why Do I Feel Pain When Bending And Straightening My Elbow
It happens when you close a cabinet door. You do it when youre drinking coffee. What is it exactly? The answer is bending and straightening your elbow. Yet even normal, seemingly easy, tasks like these can be more difficult if these movements are triggering elbow pain.
There are many issues that can trigger pain when youre bending and straightening your elbow. Wading through the sea of possible conditions isnt something you should do on your own. Physical therapists have the expertise and training to help you determine the cause of your elbow pain, and they offer many techniques that can help treat your elbow pain, too.
Why Do I Get Sharp Elbow Pain When I Exercise
Sharp elbow pain during exercise is likely due to an overuse injury. Repetitive motions of the wrist and forearm can cause accumulated damage to tendons that attach to the end of the humerus . The tendons attach to parts of the bone called epicondyles, resulting in an injury called epicondylitis. Depending on the exact tendons affected, the pain may be located on the inner side of the elbow or the outer side of the elbow . Sports activities such as golf and tennis can cause or exacerbate pain.
How To Prevent Pain In Elbow
There are several ways to help prevent elbow pain. This includes
Using The Right Equipment
Make sure you use the right and approved equipment and techniques for your tasks and sport activities.
Knowing the proper tools to use can greatly reduce your chances of injuries and unexpected accidents.
Performing Exercises That Maintain Forearm Muscles
Stick to exercises that do not strain your muscles but maintain flexibility of your forearm muscles.
If you would like to increase the tempo for your workout, start slowly and gradually incorporate it into your daily routine.
Stop or take a break from exercises that overexert your muscles and joints.
Icing Your Elbow After An Intense Physical Activity
Use an ice pack on your elbow after an intense physical activity, this will help reduce pain and inflammation.
If you notice an injury, disinfect the affected area to prevent infections.
Resting Your Elbow
Sometimes, following an injury or strain, your elbow can be easily irritated and prone to inflammation.
Rest your elbow if you experience symptoms of pain and discomfort or if it becomes too painful to bend and straighten. Visit your doctor for treatment.
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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.
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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How Is Medial Epicondylitis Diagnosed
The diagnosis of medial epicondylitis usually can be made based on a physical examination. The doctor may rest the arm on a table, palm side up, and ask the person to raise the hand by bending the wrist against resistance. If a person has medial epicondylitis, pain usually is felt in the inner aspect of the elbow.
Changing How You Move
The first thing to do if you have elbow pain is to change, or possibly stop, any movements that might be causing your symptoms or making them worse. Flare-ups of some conditions, where the symptoms become suddenly worse, can be eased by avoiding bending the elbow into certain positions.
If you do any tasks for work that involve repetitive movements such as using a screwdriver or painting, its worth discussing this with an occupational therapist. These are healthcare professionals who can suggest how to change your movements and ways to support your elbow while its healing.
A GP can refer you to an occupational therapist, or you can see one privately.
If your workplace has an occupational health department, they should be able to help.
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What To Expect At Your Office Visit
Your provider will examine you and carefully check your elbow. You will be asked questions about your medical history and symptoms such as:
- Are both elbows affected?
- Does the pain shift from the elbow to other joints?
- Is the pain over the outside bony prominence of the elbow?
- Did the pain begin suddenly and severely?
- Did the pain begin slowly and mildly and then get worse?
- Is the pain getting better on its own?
- Did the pain begin after an injury?
- What makes the pain better or worse?
- Is there pain that goes from the elbow down to the hand?
Treatment depends on the cause, but may involve:
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.
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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.
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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Is Sharp Elbow Pain Caused By A Nerve Problem
Sharp, pins-and-needles pain in the elbow may be caused by problems with a nerve. Multiple nerves run through small spaces in the elbow and can be injured or compressed due to repetitive elbow motions, structural abnormalities, or pressure placed on the elbow. Finger tingling and weakness may occur with nerve compression in the elbow. Less commonly, compression of a nerve in the neck may cause sharp elbow pain.
Elbow Joint Ligaments And Tendons
The elbow joint is supported by ligaments and tendons, which provide stability to the joint.
Ligaments are a group of firm tissues that connect bones to other bones. The most important ligaments of the elbow joint are the:
- Medial or ulnar collateral ligament: comprised of triangular bands of tissue on the inner side of the elbow joint.
- Lateral or radial collateral ligament: a thin band of tissue on the outer side of the elbow joint.
- Together, the medial and lateral ligaments are the main source of stability and hold the humerus and ulna tightly in place during movement of the arm.
- Annular ligament: These are a group of fibers that surrounds the radial head, and holds the ulna and radius tightly in place during movement of the arm.
- The ligaments around a joint combine to form a joint capsule that contains synovial fluid.
- Any injury to these ligaments can lead to instability of the elbow joint.
Tendons are bands of connective tissue fibers that connect muscle to bone. The various tendons which surround the elbow joint include:
- Biceps tendon: attaches the biceps muscle to the radius, allowing the elbow to bend.
- Triceps tendon: attaches the triceps muscle to the ulna, allowing the elbow to straighten.
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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.
Little League Baseball Players
Little league baseball players, principally younger athletes who are still growing and whose bones, muscles, ligaments, and elbow joints are not fully mature, are susceptible to elbow injuries from overuse.
In this case, Little League Elbow is slightly different than traditional Pitchers Elbow experienced by an adult although it shares similar characteristics. This is because younger players, usually between the ages of 8 and 15 years old, still have an open growth plate.
After 15 to 17 years of age, the growth plate is fused and the overuse condition affects the elbow differently.
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When To See A Doctor For Elbow Pain
Typically, this pain begins mildly and can be managed on your own with rest and stretches. However, if the pain continues for more than a week or worsens despite resting, you should schedule an appointment with a physical therapist.
A physical therapist can help to strengthen and stretch your forearm muscle, which in turn will help heal the connective tissue at the elbow. Most cases of tennis elbow can be successfully treated through physical therapy alone. It is uncommon to need surgery for this condition unless youve left it untreated for a significant amount of time and have not rested. For this reason, its important to see a doctor after a week or two of pain and to not wait if your symptoms dont improve.
Symptoms Of Pain In Elbow When Straightening Arm
Most often, this condition is accompanied by certain symptoms that gradually develop and may become severe in cases where there is no adequate or early treatment.
This is the most common symptom you experience, it ranges from mild to severe and becomes worse and more prominent when you twist your arm, or bend and straighten your elbow.
Repetitive wrist movements can also trigger this pain.
Scenarios when this pain is more obvious includes
- When gripping small and lightweight objects
- When twisting your foreman in similar motions like turning a door handle or opening a jar.
- When lifting or bending your arm, this may travel down to your forearms.
Individuals with conditions associated with pain in their elbow are more likely to experience limited stiffness and range of movement.
This is due to the overexertion of the tendons, these joints and muscles are already affected so much that overusing them.
Difficulty Moving The Joint
In addition to pain and discomfort, you may also experience some difficulty moving the joint.
This is usually as a result of stiff muscles and moving these muscles with force can result in intense pain or complications.
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Why Do I Feel Pain In Elbow When Straightening Arm
Do you sometimes feel pain in your elbow when Straightening your arm? Does the pain radiate down to your forearms?
You feel pain in your elbow due to repetitive use and overexertion of the muscles in your elbow and forearms, which usually result in an inflammation of your elbow joints.
You will most likely feel this pain when you straighten or stretch your arms.
Competitive Athletes And Sports Enthusiasts
Overtraining can ultimately lead to elbow strain and diminished performance during actual competition, especially among competitive-minded individuals working to perfect a specific movement.
Many times these are professional athletes who make too may repetitions with a specific move and overdo it to the point they cause pain and inflammation that leads to injury.
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What Is Elbow Pain
Most elbow pain has a very simple cause and clears up within a few days. The pain usually comes from strained or inflamed soft tissues such as tendons. You can normally treat this pain yourself with over-the-counter painkillers and a few days’ rest, and you may not need to see your doctor.
Its important not to rest for too long as lack of movement causes your joint to stiffen and the muscles around your elbow to weaken, which increases the chance that you’ll have further symptoms. Simple exercises can help to reduce the risk of future problems. Long-term elbow pain can be caused by arthritis.
How To Get Relieve For This Pain
A diagnosis is often done before treatment for this pain, this helps your doctor narrow down the cause, severity and type of treatment required.
During the diagnosis, your doctor will perform a physical examination and some simple tests.
You may asked questions about your job, if you play sports, and how symptoms developed. Pressure might also be applied on the affected tendons.
Here are some procedures to get relieve for this pain
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