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 your healthcare provider 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, you put wear and tear on your elbow. You can injure yourself when lifting/carrying things, playing sports or doing any number of activities.
When one of the bones in the elbow gets knocked out of place, you have a dislocated elbow. A common cause occurs 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 can be effective if used right after an injury. 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. Here are some 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 recommendations.Physical Therapy
Physical 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.Surgery
In some cases such as fractures, dislocations, and certain chronic conditions, elbow pain may require surgery. Please see your orthopedic doctor for recommendations.
- Your pain has mostly subsided.
- 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 overuse your joint. Take breaks or stop playing arm-heavy sports if you experience discomfort. Do not overuse your hand in any activity. 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.
Exercise 1: Wrist Stretch Plam Up- Repeat 5 times
Put your arm with the injured wrist in front of you.
With the other hand, help to stretch the wrist by gently pressing the fingers backwards towards you.
Keep your elbow straight. Hold for 15 seconds, then relax
Exercise 2: Forearm Pronation and Supination - Repeat 10 times
Hold a can or weight in your hand and bend your elbow 90 degree.
Slowly rotate your hand with your palm downward.
Then slowly rotate your hand with your palm upward.
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