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Elbow Pain

Elbow Pain

The elbow joint is critical in everyday life. It makes movements of the forearm including pushing, pulling, and rotation possible. When elbow pain occurs, these motions may be limited. While it usually is not a sign of a severe problem, elbow pain can be debilitating in one's day to day life. The potential causes of elbow pain are numerous, but it can usually be managed.


In most cases, elbow pain is caused by some injury or strain. The pain may originate in the bones, muscles, or the tendons that attach the bones to the muscles. Damage to the blood vessels, ligaments, and nerves within the elbow joint can also cause pain. In rarer cases, injuries to the upper arm, forearm, wrist, shoulder, or neck may cause pain that is felt in the elbow joint. Common injuries to the elbow include fractures, dislocations, little league elbow syndrome, golfer's elbow, sprains, and tennis elbow

Medical Conditions That Can Cause Elbow Pain

There are also some conditions that can cause elbow pain. Some of the most common include inflammation of the fluid sac on the tip of the elbow, osteoarthritis, tendinitis, radial tunnel syndrome, or cubital tunnel syndrome. Some of these conditions may develop on their own while others may develop after years of strains or injuries to the area.


Diagnostic imaging procedures are generally used in determining the cause of elbow pain. X-rays are commonly used to detect problems that relate to the bones while MRIs or CT scans may be used to locate problems in the other tissues. In some cases, the cause may also be determined based upon the patient's medical history and the characteristics of the pain.

Treatment Options

Serious injuries to the elbow may require surgical treatment. In cases of fractures and severe damage to muscles or tendons, physical or occupational therapy may be necessary after the arm heals to restore full range of motion. Pain caused by minor injuries or arthritis can often be managed through anti-inflammatory drugs or prescription or over-the-counter pain medications. While a wound is healing, the area may need to be wrapped in a compression bandage and kept elevated to reduce swelling. Patients should also allow the elbow to rest and avoid the activity that caused the injury until the area can heal. When patients develop chronic pain due to sports-related injuries, lifestyle changes may be necessary to manage pain and prevent future complications.