Elbow Pain: Reasons and Causes

September 4, 2023

Elbow Pain: Reasons and Causes
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What is Elbow Pain?

The elbow joint, which joins the upper and lower arm bones, can become painful or uncomfortable. It can seem as light as a dull ache or as bad as crippling pain. One or both elbows may experience elbow pain, which has a variety of causes, including overuse, trauma, inflammation, or underlying medical disorders. For the management and relief of elbow pain, a precise diagnosis and the right course of action are crucial.

Table of Contents

  • What is Elbow Pain?
  • Causes
  • Symptoms
  • Diagnosis
  • Treatment
  • Prevention
  • Conclusion
  • Frequently Asked Questions


  1. Overuse and Repetitive Strain
  • Tennis elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)
  • Golfer’s elbow (Medial Epicondylitis)
  • Overuse from activities like typing or gripping tools.
  1. Trauma and Injury
  • Fractures
  • Dislocations
  • Sprains or strains
  1. Inflammatory Conditions
  • Bursitis
  • Arthritis
  1. Nerve Compression
  • Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
  • Radial Tunnel Syndrome
  • Tendinitis: inflammation of the tendons around the elbow.

Identifying the root cause of elbow pain is critical for effective treatment and pain relief. For proper diagnosis and management, it is best to consult a healthcare professional.


The symptoms of elbow discomfort can vary depending on the underlying cause. The following are typical signs of elbow pain:

  • Constant or sporadic soreness in the elbow joint can range in intensity from mild to severe.
  • The limited elbow range of motion makes it challenging to straighten or bend the arm.
  • Visible or palpable swelling around the elbow joint caused by fluid accumulation or indicating inflammation
  • The affected area feels more sensitive or painful when touched.
  • The affected arm has less strength, making it difficult to carry out daily chores.
  • Numbness or tingling may be a sign of nerve inflammation or compression.
  • When moving, the elbow joint may make audible or felt clicking or popping noises.
  • An occasional “locking” of the elbow joint makes motion difficult.
  • Pain that radiates from the elbow to other arm or hand regions.
  • Because of the inflammation, the affected area may feel warm to the touch.

The combination and intensity of symptoms can help determine the underlying cause of elbow pain. If your elbow pain is persistent or worsening, see a doctor right away because a quick diagnosis and the right treatment can prevent things from getting worse. 


The diagnosis of elbow pain frequently entails a thorough examination by a medical expert. Here is a summary of the procedures involved in determining the source of elbow pain:

1. Medical background

Beginning with a thorough medical history, the healthcare professional will inquire about the onset, nature, and symptoms of the pain. They could ask whether there have been any recent accidents, activities, or repeated actions that may have caused the pain.

2. Physical Evaluation 

A physical examination of the elbow will be performed to evaluate its strength, flexibility, discomfort, oedema, and any obvious anomalies. The medical professional might additionally check the neck, shoulder, and wrist because pain there occasionally refers to the elbow.

3. Imaging Studies

Images from an X-ray can be used to detect arthritis, bone spurs, fractures, and dislocations in the elbow joint.

To assess soft tissue structures like tendons, ligaments, and the presence of fluid, ultrasound imaging may be employed.

A detailed image of soft tissues can be obtained from an MRI, which makes it valuable for identifying disorders like ligament tears or nerve compression.

A CT scan may be required in some circumstances to obtain a more thorough understanding of the bone and joint structures.

4. Laboratory Tests

Blood tests may be performed to assess uric acid levels (for gout), inflammatory markers (such as C-reactive protein), or autoimmune markers (in cases of suspected autoimmune diseases).

5. Nerve Conduction Studies

If nerve compression is suspected, electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies may be performed to evaluate nerve function.

6. Aspiration or Biopsy

Rarely, fluid from the elbow joint may be aspirated for testing, or a biopsy may be performed for additional investigation, particularly if an infection or other uncommon disorders are suspected.


A number of underlying factors, such as overuse, trauma, or medical diseases like arthritis, may bring on elbow pain. The reason and degree of elbow discomfort determine the best course of treatment. Here is a list of the possible treatment alternatives in a systematic manner for your understanding:

1. Rest and Self-Care

Giving the injured elbow enough rest is the first step in treating elbow pain. Give the wounded tissues time to heal by avoiding activities that make the discomfort worse.

Ice can be applied to the injured region to help with pain relief and inflammation reduction. Every hour or so, use an ice pack for 15-20 minutes.

Compression bandaging around the elbow can support it and help with oedema management.

Elevating the affected arm may help to reduce swelling by allowing extra fluid to drain from the area.

2. Physical Therapy:

To increase flexibility, facilitate healing, and strengthen the muscles around the elbow, a physical therapist may recommend particular exercises.

To lessen pain and inflammation, physical therapists may employ techniques like ultrasound or electrical stimulation.

3. Bracing and Splinting:

By giving the afflicted area stability and support while wearing an elbow brace or splint, the tension on the wounded tissues can be reduced.

4. Injections

A medical expert may inject corticosteroids directly into the elbow joint to treat cases of extreme pain and inflammation.

5. Regenerative Medicine

PRP therapy uses concentrated platelets from your own blood to inject into the wound, encouraging tissue healing and minimising pain.

In cases of elbow discomfort that are more severe, stem cells may be employed to encourage tissue regeneration.

6. Surgical Interventions

For the diagnosis and treatment of some elbow diseases, like tennis elbow or loose bodies in the joint, minimally invasive surgery may be required.

For serious tendon injuries or tears, surgery may be necessary for repair.

Surgery to replace the elbow joint may be an option in cases of severe arthritis or joint deterioration.

7. Lifestyle Modifications:

Maintain correct ergonomics at work and during leisure activities to avoid adding to the elbow’s stress.

Overuse injuries can be prevented in athletes by using the right sports equipment and improving technique.

8. Alternative Therapies

Acupuncture sessions can provide elbow pain relief for some people.

Chiropractic adjustments may aid in better mobility and pain reduction.

Always seek the advice of a medical professional for a precise diagnosis and individualised treatment plan. The precise cause, degree, and personal circumstances will determine the best course of treatment for elbow discomfort. Pain can be reduced, and long-term consequences can be avoided with early management and appropriate care.


There are many different reasons and causes for elbow discomfort, which is a frequent and frequently inconvenient condition. Effective diagnosis and treatment of elbow discomfort depend on an understanding of the underlying causes. Finding the cause—whether it is due to overuse, injury, a medical condition like arthritis, or other causes—is the first step in treatment.

It is critical to keep in mind that elbow pain shouldn’t be disregarded because it might have a negative impact on everyday activities, employment, and general well-being. It is essential to seek quick medical examination and diagnosis in order to receive the proper care and stop the illness from getting worse.

There are many different ways to treat elbow discomfort, from self-care measures like rest and self-massage to more sophisticated treatments like physical therapy, injections, and, in some cases, surgery. The particular reason and degree of the pain, as well as individual factors, all influence the therapy option.

Overall, treating and managing elbow discomfort frequently needs a multidisciplinary strategy involving medical experts, physical therapists, and occasionally complementary and alternative therapies. People can reclaim their comfort and mobility and, as a result, improve their quality of life by methodically and efficiently treating the causes and factors that contribute to elbow discomfort.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can Carpal Tunnel Cause Elbow Pain?

No, carpal tunnel syndrome often results in discomfort, numbness, and tingling in the hands and wrists. Elbow pain is not directly brought on by it. Tennis elbow or overuse are two common causes of elbow pain.

2. How to Fix Inner Elbow Pain?

Try rest, ice, and over-the-counter painkillers to ease inner elbow pain. Avoid doing things that make the pain worse. Consult a physician if it continues. Exercises used during physical therapy can strengthen the area. Support can be obtained from braces or splints, and in more serious circumstances, a doctor may advise injections or surgery.

3. How to Stop Elbow Pain When Sleeping?

Try resting on your back with a pillow under the affected arm to provide support if you experience elbow pain as you sleep. Avoid lying on your stomach at night. Consult a doctor for additional advice and other remedies if the discomfort doesn’t go away.

Disclaimer: We recommend consulting a Doctor before taking any action based on the above shared information.



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