Causes of Elbow Pain & How to Treat Them
Elbow pain can be caused by a variety of conditions from light sprains to fractured bones. Because the pain can come and go from a variety of sources, it is important to identify the proper cause of your elbow pain.
Proper treatments commonly include rest, physical therapy, medication, and sometimes surgery. It's important to see a doctor for a comprehensive evaluation and accurate diagnosis.
There are many different causes of elbow pain. Some are chronic problems triggered by repetitive activities and others are one-time injuries. A few common conditions are listed below:
As you repeat certain actions and put wear and tear on your elbow. You can injure yourself playing sports or doing any number of activities. This can include tendinitis, such as tennis or golfer's elbow.
When one of the bones in the elbow gets knocked out of place, you have a dislocated elbow. One of the more common causes is when you put your hand out to catch yourself during a fall.
If one of your arm bones breaks at the elbow, you have a fracture. Usually, this happens with a sudden blow, as you might get in a contact sport or a car accident.
Several types of diseases can cause chronic pain, such as arthritis or lupus. These are usually autoimmune type diseases where your immune system attacks the body's healthy tissue, causing inflammation.
If your elbow pain is severe or persistent, it's important to see your primary care doctor for a proper diagnosis. If you think you've fractured or dislocated your elbow, go to the emergency room! Other signs that warrant medical attention include:
- Elbow pain that doesn’t go away with rest and ice, or pain that doesn’t go away even when you’re not using your arm.
- Intense pain, swelling, and bruising around your elbow.
- Pain, swelling, or redness that gets worse, especially if you have a fever, too
- Problems using your elbow, such as difficulty bending or straightening your arm
Treatment of elbow pain can vary widely depending on the underlying problem. It is best to consult a healthcare professional first.Self-Care Options
- Rest: The first treatment for many common elbow conditions is to rest the joint, which allows for the acute inflammation to subside. It is important, however, to use caution when doing this, as prolonged immobilization may cause a stiff joint.
- Ice: Ice is generally reserved for the early painful stage. Apply ice to your elbow (placing a towel in between the ice pack and your skin) for 15 to 20 minutes, three times daily. It's also a good idea to apply ice to your elbow for 15 minutes after actively using your arm..
- Stretching: Stretching can reduce pain in the muscles around the joint. There are stretches that you can do at home to reduce stiffness and improve flexibility.
Typical anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs) are commonly prescribed by doctors for elbow pain. Over the counter examples include Ibuprofen and Asprin. Steroid injections can also be used to treat inflammation, if needed.Braces & Pads
For certain tendonitis, bursa, or cubital tunnel syndromes, your doctor may recommend braces and pads until the pain lessens. See a specialist for recommendationsPhysical Therapy
Physcial therapy helps in many types of orthopedic injuires and conditions when done correctly. It can help you strengthen your muscles while prevent future injuries and inflammation. Try doing some typical PT exercises at home.Surgery
In some cases such as fractures, dislocations, and certain chronic conditions, elbow pain may require surgery. Please see your orthopedic doctor for recommendations.
- You no longer have elbow pain.
- You can move your elbow fully/comfortably.
- DO NOT overstress your elbow when it starts to get better!
You can manage the main causes of elbow pain by stretching and being careful to not to over-use your joint. Take breaks or stop playing arm-heavy sports if you experience discomfort. When you feel pain in your elbow, start treatment right away. Treating the systmptoms early can often stop the symptioms from becoming worse.
Time to Completion: 10 minutes. You can do these exercises right away.
Clasp your hands behind your head and turn your head to the right.
Let the weight of your arms pull your chin to the right side of your chest.
Hold with a bit of pressure and then repeat on your left side.Hold for 15 seconds
Place your fingertips on your chin. Look straight.
Gently push your head straight back as if you are trying to make a double-chin.
Keep looking forward as your head moves back. Hold and repeat.Hold for 5 seconds
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