Elbow pain is a common condition that can affect people of all ages. The discomfort that you may feel from your elbows can be coming from the different structures that make up the elbow joint, such as:
These parts that make up the elbow allow you to move freely with maximum flexibility. However, the elbow’s complex structure also means that it’s prone to different kinds of injuries and disorders.
There are three main reasons why your elbow hurts. It can be due to overuse, one-time injuries, or an underlying disease. Read on below to learn more about the most common culprits that can plague your elbows and where to get help for elbow pain management.
Repeated actions performed on a specific body can cause wear and tear on its structures over time. When you use or strain your elbow too much, it can result in overuse injuries that may permanently harm the elbows' muscles, bones, and nerves. Some of the most common overuse injuries in the elbow include:
Tennis elbow is one of the most common causes of elbow pain that affects almost 2% of the population. This condition is a type of tendonitis that occurs when the elbow tendons and muscles get strained due to too much use.
However, it can also arise from the incorrect yet repetitive use of forearm muscles. For example, individuals who do not use their forearm muscles much and then suddenly overuse them may also become at risk of developing tennis elbow. Some of its most prominent symptoms include:
Although playing tennis can cause lateral epicondylitis, it’s not exclusive to these sports players alone. Other activities that can cause this disease include manual labor that uses the forearm (e.g., carpentry, working the cash register), playing instruments, and heavy lifting.
Like the tennis elbow, the golfer’s elbow also affects the tendons that connect the elbow and forearms, causing pain and inflammation. However, the pain here usually originates from the inside of the elbow.
Despite its name, only 1% of individuals with medial epicondylitis got it from playing golf. 90% of the time, patients develop it through repetitive activities, such as heavy pounding and lifting, and typing on the keyboard.
Elbow bursitis refers to a condition that causes pain and inflammation in the olecranon bursa一a thin synovial-filled sac that cushions the bony part of the elbow. Most of the time, this disease develops due to repetitive pressure in the elbow’s bursa.
However, other causes may also instigate the condition, such as infection and other medical disorders. Olecranon bursitis can also be known as student’s elbow, miner’s elbow, and draftsman’s elbow.
Radial tunnel syndrome, also known as nerve entrapment, is an injury to the radial nerve that causes nagging pain in the elbow. The radial nerve is a nerve that runs from the neck down to the arms. It controls most of the movements and sensations in the upper arm muscles, including the elbow.
Besides pain and numbness in the elbow, some of the other commons symptoms you can experience when you have pinched nerves are:
Some of the most common causes of pinched radial nerves include repetitive pulling, pushing, and grabbing motion of the arms. Sometimes, it may also be due to a traumatic injury or bone and fatty tumors.
A stress fracture refers to a tiny crack in one of the bones that make up the elbow. Its leading cause is repetitive trauma and overuse, which is common in athletes, such as baseball pitchers.
Unlike wear and tear, one-time injuries in the elbow occur suddenly and, often, as a one-off event. However, this does not make it any less painful or dangerous. Most one-time injuries happen due to a penetrating injury, direct blow to the elbow, or hard falls.
An elbow contusion refers to a minor injury that causes bruising in the soft tissues of the elbow. It usually results in temporary pain, swelling, and bruising of the elbow, which resolves quickly after a few days of rest and icing of the area.
But in severe injuries, contusions may cause bleeding under the skin, causing pain and inflammation in the elbow area that may last for a week or more.
Strain and sprain are injuries that affect the muscles that surround the arms and the elbow joints. These one-time injuries usually occur in contact sports, activities that put too much pressure on the arm, or during vehicular accidents—for example, breaking a fall using an outstretched arm or twisting the elbows a little too much.
Both strain and sprain have the same symptoms, such as pain, tenderness, and swelling in the elbows. The only difference between the two is the specific muscles affected: for strain, it’s the tendons, while sprain happens when the ligaments are involved.
A fractured elbow refers to a partial or complete break in one or more bones that make up the elbow. There are three main types of this condition:
is the most common type of fracture that occurs at the bony tip of the elbow, which is a part of the ulna. The olecranon can easily break or get torn after a direct blow since there are no muscles or soft tissues that protect it.
the radial head is the top part of the lower arm bone connected to the humerus (upper arm bone). During a traumatic impact, the radial head may push into the humerus, severing their connection and causing a fracture.
this is a break in the lower bone of the upper arm. This condition rarely happens, but when it does, it causes intense pain in the elbow and upper arms, making it almost impossible to be moved.
Other symptoms to watch out for include swelling, stiffness, tenderness, bruising, and a feeling like your elbow will pop out. If you’re in pain and suspect a fracture, then you should see an elbow pain doctor right away to avoid exacerbating the injury.
Elbow dislocation occurs when the bones of the forearm (radius and ulna) move out of the socket that connects it to the upper arm bone (humerus). During a dislocation, any or all of the bones of the elbow joint can be injured in different degrees. There’s also a possibility for ligaments and tendons to get torn or stretched since these muscles surround the elbow joints.
Like fractures, elbow dislocations can be severely painful and dangerous. The patient should immediately seek medical care and elbow pain management from a doctor or pain specialist.
Elbow pain is the most common symptom of many diseases and conditions affecting the elbow and its structures. This includes the following conditions:
Osteoarthritis affects millions of people worldwide, especially adults and seniors. This condition damages the protective cartilage that lines the elbow, wearing it down over time. As the cartilage becomes thinner, the bones will lose their lubrication and protection, causing them to rub on each other when moving.
Osteoarthritis tends to develop gradually, causing irreversible damage to the joints. Some of its common symptoms are:
Another common elbow condition that damages the joints is rheumatoid arthritis. However, this disease is much worse due to its chronic and progressive state.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disorder wherein your own immune system mistakenly attacks your healthy cells throughout your body, including the elbows. As the elbow cartilage gets damaged, it will start to painfully swell, causing bone erosion and joint deformity.
Another type of arthritis that commonly causes elbow pain and discomfort is gout. Gout occurs when there’s too much uric acid in the blood, causing it to leak into the tissues and build up as crystals. When it accumulates, these sharp urate crystals can damage the tissues in the elbows, causing sharp pain, swelling, and tenderness.
One defining characteristic of gout is that its symptoms come and go. This means that your elbow can be fine one minute and then feel a sudden, severe pain the next. Fortunately, this condition can be treated and managed by an elbow pain doctor or specialist.
Osteochondritis dissecans refers to a joint condition wherein a tiny segment of the bones underneath the elbow cartilage dies due to a lack of blood supply. As a result, the cartilage can crack and loosen as the dying bone separates from it. This condition is characterized by pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the arms.
Lyme arthritis is a complication of an untreated Lyme disease that occurs when the bacteria infiltrates the tissues in the elbow. You will also experience pain and swelling in other joints of the body, such as the knees, hips, jaw, wrist, and shoulder.
Are you looking for the best pain management doctor in South Florida to get help for your elbow pain? If so, then you’re on the right track.
At Pain Care Specialists of Florida, we provide a comprehensive range of services to relieve the acute and chronic pain you are experiencing. Our expert elbow pain management specialists, Dr. Escobar and Dr. Alexandre can give you the proper diagnosis you need so we can start creating a treatment plan that will meet the specific needs of your condition.
Contact us now or visit our pain specialists in one of our convenient locations near you!
The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.