The elbow is a hinge joint made up of 3 bones – the humerus, radius, and ulna. The bones are held together by ligaments to provide stability to the joint. Muscles and tendons move the bones around each other and help in performing various movements. Nerves pass through the joint.
What is Elbow Pain?
Damage to any of the structures that make up the elbow joint can cause elbow pain.
What are the Common Causes of Elbow Pain?
The common causes of elbow pain may include:
- Elbow dislocation: An elbow dislocation occurs when the bones that make up the joint are forced out of alignment as when you fall onto an outstretched hand. They can also occur from any traumatic injury such as motor vehicle accidents. When the elbow is dislocated you may experience severe pain, swelling, and lack of ability to bend your arm. Sometimes, you cannot feel your hand or may have no pulse in your wrist because arteries and nerves that run along your elbow may be injured.
- Elbow fractures: A fracture is a common injury to the elbow. Elbow fractures may result from a fall onto an outstretched wrist, direct impact to the elbow or twisting injury. Elbow fractures may cause severe pain, swelling, tenderness, and difficulty in movement. If a fracture is suspected, immediate intervention by your doctor is necessary. Surgery is often required if a bony displacement is observed.
- Tennis elbow/golfer's elbow: Tennis elbow is the inflammation of muscles on the outside of the elbow whereas tendinitis on the inner side of the elbow is golfer’s elbow. Overuse of the arms or a traumatic blow to the hand may cause tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow. These injuries may cause severe pain and tenderness of the affected muscles that radiate down into the forearm, particularly with use of the hand and wrist.
- Tendonitis: Tendonitis is inflammation of any of the tendons in the wrist. It is usually treated with adequate rest, splinting, ice application and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce the inflammation.
Adequate rest and immobility of the affected part help the muscles to recover and modification of the activities helps in better healing. A tennis elbow strap may relieve the pressure from the muscle attachment. Pain medications may be recommended to relieve pain and inflammation. Heat therapy, followed by stretching and strengthening exercises and then ice massage may be beneficial.
Any problem causing pain, swelling, discoloration, numbness, or a tingling sensation, or abnormal position of the elbow that persists for more than two or three days should be evaluated by your doctor to establish the cause and obtain the best treatment as early as possible.