The elbow is a joint formed by three bones that come together:
- Upper arm bone (humerus)
- Thinner and longer of the two bones in the forearm (ulna)
- Shorter and thicker bone in the forearm (radius)
What causes elbow pain?
Elbow pain is typically caused by overuse and sports injuries. The following are some conditions that can cause elbow pain:
- Medial Epicondylitis (Golfer's Elbow) - tendinopathy of the inner tendons in the elbow commonly caused by repetitive movements resulting from work or household chores, a baseball pitcher's repetitive throwing motion and golfer's downward swing of a golf club./li>
- Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow) - tendinopathy of the tendons on the outside of the elbow commonly caused by repetitive movements resulting from household chores, racquet sports and certain occupations.
- Olecranon Bursitis (Student's Elbow, Miner's Elbow, Draftsman's Elbow) - inflammation of the small sacs of fluid (bursae) that help protect the pointed elbow bone typically caused by trauma (e.g., falling on the elbow or hitting it on a hard surface).
- Osteoarthritis (OA) - damage and deterioration of the cartilage (connective tissue in the joints) typically age-related but can also be due to a previous injury (e.g., elbow fracture).
- Elbow Strain - over-stretched or torn forearm flexor or extensor muscles typically caused by trauma or overuse.
- Elbow Sprain - over-stretched or torn ligaments (band of tissue that connects bone to bone) that can result from trauma or overuse.
- Elbow Dislocation - a bone moves from its usual position commonly caused by catching yourself during a fall or when you swing a toddler by the forearms (nursemaid's elbow).
- Elbow Fracture - when a bone cracks or breaks typically resulting from a sudden blow (e.g., an auto accident or contact sports injury).
- Osteochondritis Dissecans (Panner's Disease) - small pieces of cartilage and bone become dislodged in the elbow joint typically resulting from a sports injury.
When to See a Doctor for Elbow Pain
Elbow pain is typically short-term and no cause for concern. These can usually be treated rest, ice therapy, medication and physical therapy. However, if you are experiencing these symptoms, it would be a good idea to consult with an orthopedic doctor.
- Your elbow doesn't improve after treating with rest and ice therapy.
- Your elbow is painful even when you aren't using your arm.
- Pain, redness or swelling continues to get worse instead of better.
- You are not able to move your elbow or arm normally.
- Normal, everyday activities are painful or becoming more difficult to do.
Fractures and dislocations are serious conditions requiring immediate medical attention. See a doctor right away if:
- Your elbow is intensely painful and has bruising and swelling around the joint.
- You notice an obvious deformity in your elbow.
- You are unable to move your able.
- Your elbow starts hurting following an injury or fall.