Elbow Pain
Symptoms, Causes, Related Conditions, Questions & Related Topics


Top 3 Elbow Pain Causes

1. Sudden or Acute Injury

Many people report elbow pain after suffering a sports injury or strain.[1] Injuries can temporarily or permanently affect the function of your joints. Your elbow joint is made up of bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, muscles, nerves, and other tissues. An elbow injury or strain can affect one or more of these parts.[2] Minor injuries often heal on their own, but an injury that is more severe or doesn’t feel better after a short time might require medical treatment.

2. Repetitive Stress or Overuse

Repeated motion can wear down the tissues in your joints.[3] Over time, you can become more prone to injury or inflammation. If your job requires you to perform a specific task over and over, you might eventually develop pain in certain areas of your body. Repetitive stress injuries can also occur due to sports or other recreational activities. Tennis and golf players, baseball pitchers, and weightlifters are especially likely to develop elbow pain.[4]

3. Inflammation

At times, the tissue inside your elbow can become swollen or inflamed. Inflammation is often triggered by an injury or overuse of the joint, which may be diagnosed as tendinitis. Some chronic illnesses and disorders can also cause joint inflammation.[5] If you have one of these illnesses, you may notice pain, inflammation, or swelling in several other joints as well.

Possible Health Conditions Related to Elbow Pain

1. Fractures and Broken Bones

Elbow pain is sometimes caused by a broken bone or fracture.[6] If your pain is due to a broken bone, you might remember the exact moment you injured your elbow. You might have heard a snap or felt something pop inside your elbow. Following your injury, your hand or arm might feel weak or numb. If you suspect that you have a broken bone or fracture, see a doctor. Your doctor can apply a splint, sling, or cast to help the bones heal. Severe injuries might require surgery.[6]

2. Torn Ligaments

The ligaments in your elbow can tear due to overuse or sudden injury. If you have a torn ligament, you could have pain on the inside of your below, or your elbow could swell.[7] You might have difficulty throwing a ball or carrying an object with the affected arm. Minor tears can often be treated with rest, ice, or physical therapy.[7] If your tear is severe, you might need to undergo surgery to fix it.

3. Arthritis

More than 50 million people in the United States suffer from some form of arthritis.[8] Arthritis causes the tissue in your joints to become damaged or inflamed. Although it can affect people of any age, it’s especially common among older adults.[8] If you have arthritis, you might notice pain in several joints. Areas commonly affected by arthritis include the hands, wrists, knees, and hips.[9] Arthritis sometimes requires medical treatment.

4. Bursitis

Small fluid-filled sacs called bursae are located inside your joints.[10] These sacs help cushion your bones and muscles and allow you to move your joints freely. Sometimes bursae become inflamed or swollen, triggering joint pain. Bursitis often gets better on its own.[10] If your symptoms are severe, contact a doctor for help managing them.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Elbow Pain

  • When did your elbow pain start?
  • Did you recently injure your elbow?
  • Do you plan any sports?
  • Does your job require any repetitive motions?
  • Do you have pain in any other joints?
  • Do certain activities make your pain worse?
  • Is your pain constant, or does it come and go?

Elbow Pain May Also be Known as

  • Tennis elbow
  •  
  • Golfer’s elbow
  •  
  • Elbow joint pain

Sources

  1. University of Michigan. Elbow Injuries. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/elbow
  2. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Elbw Injuries and Disorders. https://medlineplus.gov/elbowinjuriesanddisorders.html
  3. John Hopkins Medicine. Repetitive Motion Injury. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/physical_medicine_and_rehabilitation/repetitive_motion_injury_85,P01176
  4. Mayo Clinic. Golfer’s elbow. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/golfers-elbow/symptoms-causes/syc-20372868
  5. Mayo Clinic. Joint pain. https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/joint-pain/basics/causes/sym-20050668
  6. WebMD. Broken elbow. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/broken-elbow#1
  7. Center for Disease Control. Arthritis FAQs. https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/faqs.htm
  8. Center for Disease Control. Arthritis Risk Factors. https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/risk-factors.htm
  9. Center for Disease Control. Osteoarthritis. https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/osteoarthritis.htm#risk
  10. Mayo Clinic. Bursitis. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bursitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20353242

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