elbow pain

Elbow Pain – Causes, symptoms & exercises

Elbow pain can vary from the burning sensation associated with an irritated tendon to the acute pain associated with an elbow fracture. It comes and goes. Or it might progressively worsen as you move your arm. Many people who suffer from elbow discomfort must struggle to adjust to the lifestyle modifications required due to the ailment. The pain treatment strategy generally includes a combination of medicines and physical therapy, which the patient must follow daily.

Overuse or recurrent strain on the tendons at the elbow joint can overload these tissues, particularly where the tendon anchors to the bone. Overload can produce discomfort around the elbow, especially while utilizing the wrist and hand. Complete healing might take months, depending on the location and severity of the injury.

Since you have an overview of the condition, it is essential to know about the anatomy. Knowing what the joint is made of can also help you understand the problem better and aid in recovery. We can say that the elbow is just like the knee in our lower body; it is the same joint and almost similar anatomy.

elbow pain

The elbow is a hinged joint composed of three bones: the humerus, the ulna, and the radius. The humerus is the upper arm bone, and the ulna and radius together make the forearm bone.  Cartilage covers the ends of the bones. Cartilage has a rubbery quality that permits joints to move smoothly against one another and absorb trauma. Ligaments create the joint capsule, which holds the bones together. The biceps tendon, which connects to the biceps muscle on the front of your arm, and the triceps tendon, which attaches to the triceps muscle on the back of your arm, are the most important tendons of the elbow. The forearm muscles cross the elbow and connect to the humerus.

What can cause elbow pain?

The elbow joint has a lot of small and big parts, and any damage to even one of those can trigger pain in the elbow. We have listed down some of the most common reasons for elbow pain.

  • Arthritis 

Osteoarthritis, or arthritis, is more prevalent in weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips but also affects the elbow. Arthritis occurs due to the cartilage tear that protects the elbow joints, causing the bones to grind against one another. That may result from repetitive motions made during activities like sports or jobs that put too much strain on the joint. In this condition, it is common for one to experience some level of swelling, stiffness, and pain.

  • Fracture 

 The olecranon fracture is the most common kind of fracture affecting the elbow. An olecranon fracture is a break in the “pointy bone” of the elbow, which is the end of the ulna and protrudes as you bend your arm. This sort of fracture is typical and typically presents alone, but it can also be a component of a more serious elbow injury.

  • Dislocation of elbow

A displaced elbow or dislocated elbow occurs when one of the bones that make up the elbow is knocked out of place. One of the most typical reasons is reaching out to catch oneself during a fall. It may also happen to toddlers swinging by their forearms, known as the nursemaid’s elbow. If you think that you or your kid have a dislocated elbow, it is suggested to contact a doctor immediately. 

  • Sprained Elbow

When the arm is bent or twisted fast or violently, it can cause an elbow sprain or injury to the ligaments around the elbow joint.

The humerus, the bone of the upper arm, and the radius and ulna, which are the forearm bones, are connected to the joints in the elbow via ligaments. Your elbow’s mobility may be severely restricted and painfully pulled or torn ligaments.

  • Golfer’s Elbow 

Golfer’s elbow is tendonitis that hurts and inflames the tendons that go from the forearm to the elbow. The bony protrusion inside your elbow is where the pain is most intense, although it can also radiate into the forearm. Rest typically makes things better. Medial epicondylitis is the medical name for it. A golfer’s elbow is generally caused by overuse of the forearm muscles that allow you to grasp, rotate your arm, and flex your wrist. Repetitive flexing, clutching, or swinging can cause tendons to strain or rupture. The most common symptom one can sense is pain, swelling, and restricted movement. 

  • Tennis Elbow 

Tennis elbow is said to be an overuse injury that occurs when the tendons are overworked, leading to inflammation, degeneration, and possibly tearing. This often affects tennis players who hold their racquets wrong or play with improper techniques. But it is comparatively more prevalent in non-players.

What are the possible symptom you may experience?

Elbow discomfort symptoms might vary significantly according to the complexity of your elbow joint. In order to determine the source of your discomfort, your doctor will evaluate your medical history and check your elbow. Inform your doctor about any activities that aggravate your elbow discomfort and any other symptoms you are experiencing.

The following symptoms may accompany elbow discomfort:

  • Deformity

  • pain in moving figures 

  • weak grip

  • a restricted range of motion

  • Stiffness

  • Swelling

  • Redness and warmth

Seek immediate medical assistance if you have suffered significant elbow injuries. If mild to severe elbow discomfort persists for more than seven to fourteen days, consult an orthopaedic expert.

elbow pain

When to see a doctor?

A doctor may test either by X-rays, physical test, and MRI.

You should visit a doctor once if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • The pain persists despite resting and refraining from the actions that produced the discomfort.

  • You have pain even when doing minimum action

  • weak grips and difficulty in holding stuff

  • The nature of the pain varies, from dull to shooting 

  • Pain returns as you start your movements

  •  there is some swelling, a lump, or bruising.

How to manage elbow pain at home?

Treatment depends on the intensity of the elbow disease and the symptoms you are experiencing. The majority of elbow problems require conservative care or non-surgical treatments. Surgery is the last and rare option if your condition does not improve. 

  • Use of Ice 

Ice or cold pad should be applied to the affected area as soon as possible it shrinks the blood vessels, reducing the blood flow to the affected area. This therapy is excellent when it comes to reducing inflammation and shooting muscle pain. Icing is known to numb pains and reduce swelling and bruising.

  • Take Rest

One normally overworks the joint and ends up hurting them, which triggers pain. When the pain is inflicted, one must take rest in order for the pain to ease. The rest you take gives your elbow the time to recover and heal from the possible injury. 

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs 

These are painkiller tablets and pain relief gels with minimum side effects that one can get without a doctor’s prescription.

NSAIDs are available as tablets, balms, and gels that may be applied directly to the painful area of your body. Ibuprofen and paracetamol, for example, may help relieve the slight discomfort and inflammation caused by tennis elbow. Topical NSAIDs are commonly used to treat musculoskeletal conditions such as elbow pain. This is because they can reduce inflammation and pain without causing side effects or harm to the patient. 

  • Physical therapy:

In the first 24 to 56 hours of the occurrence of the pain, you should rest and avoid any kind of physical movement. But later on, you should start some or the other type of physical therapy for yourself. You should look at two significant kinds of physical exercises, one that strengthens your body and the other that help you recover from previous damage. You can choose strength training exercises or add yoga and stretches to assist in the process. It is crucial to maintain some kind of physical activity to stay healthy.

  • Use Braces 

Braces that protect and support your elbow are also beneficial in minimizing elbow aches. They reduce swelling and pain during the inflammatory phase and encourage the healing of injured capsule-ligament structures and bone.   Using a brace gives you the immobility and support that your body needs. Many braces are available online and offline; you may consult a doctor to find a perfect fit matching your problem/condition.

elbow pain

Exercise for Elbow pain.

These are simple beginner-friendly exercises that, in the long term, will help you reduce the pain and strengthen your elbow. Keep the following in mind while doing the working out.

A-> Consult a physical therapist if you have severe symptoms before starting.

B-> You should stop immediately if you feel pain while performing the exercises.

  • wrist Lift

Make a 90-degree angle with your elbow. Hold a lightweight  (such as a cold drink can) palm down. Gently pull your wrist towards you, then slowly release. Do three sets of 15 reps two times a day. You may see results in  4 to 12 weeks.

  • Wrist Turn

Bend your elbow at 90 degrees and extend your palm up. Slowly turn your wrist such that your palm is now facing down. Hold for five seconds and gently release. Perform three sets of ten repetitions.  You can add weight by holding a water bottle and doing the same.

  • Elbow Bend 

Stand straight and lower your arm to one side. Slowly raise your arm till your hand touches your shoulder. Hold the position for 15-30 seconds.

Rep 10 times more. A little weight may also improve strength in your biceps and triceps, which is beneficial for a biceps rupture.

  • Wrist flexion 

Gently bend your wrist down while keeping your arm straight in front and palm facing down. Hold for 15-30 seconds with the opposite hand pressing the extending hand back towards your body. The wrist should be straightened.

Gently bend the stretched hand backward and bring the fingers back with the opposite hand. Hold the position for 15-30 seconds. Perform three sets on each wrist.

  •  Fist Clench

Place your forearm on the table and sit at it.

In your hand, hold a rolled-up towel or a little ball.

 Hold and squeeze the towel in your hand for 10 seconds.

Repeat it ten times.  Do it with the other arm.


Written By

Kanak Tiwari

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