The elbow is an important part of the human body’s anatomy. It’s the joint between the forearm and the upper arm that allows you to bend the arm. Are you experiencing elbow pain, but aren’t sure what’s causing it? Several things can cause elbow pain ranging from hitting your funny bone to dislocating your elbow, all of which are unpleasant. Keep reading to learn about symptoms, causes, fun facts, and when to see your doctor.
Symptoms of elbow pain may vary based on the condition and the severity. However, the main symptoms of elbow pain include discomfort or soreness along with a decreased range of motion. More severe elbow pain can cause a weak grip, tingling from the elbow down to the fingertips, and nausea. The pain may feel like it is coming from the bone, joint, muscle, or tendons.
Tendons are what connects muscles to bones. Tendinitis is when the tendons become inflamed, causing pain and tenderness. This condition is often the result of an injury, age, or certain diseases. Staying fit, building muscle, and warming up before excessing can reduce your chance of developing tendinitis. You should also avoid repetitive motions, use proper posture when working at a desk, and not stay in the same position for too long.
Arthritis occurs when joints become inflamed. It can affect one or multiple joints at a time. Symptoms of arthritis include joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. You may notice the signs develop over a period of time or they can appear without warning. Arthritis is most common in obese females over the age of 65. However, arthritis can affect both genders at any age or weight.
Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that surround the area where muscles, tendons, and skin meet. They work like grease for your joints and provide lubrication to your bones. Bursitis occurs when bursae become inflamed, causing pain and discomfort. Treatments for bursitis include resting, pain medication, antibiotics, corticosteroids, physical therapy, and sometimes surgery. After treatment, the symptoms may disappear, but bursitis can also become chronic.
Tennis elbow occurs in people who engage in repetitive activity that involve rotating the wrist, such as tennis, swimming, and golfing. This condition is when a tendon in the forearm, extensor carpi radialis brevis, becomes damaged. Symptoms of tennis elbow are elbow pain that is mild and gradually becomes worse, pain from the outside of the elbow down the forearm, and increased pain when shaking or squeezing an object. You may have the inability to grip or pain when lifting something, using tools, and opening jars. A physical exam, x-ray, or MRI can diagnose tennis elbow. Treatments include rest, ice, physical therapy, steroid injections, shock wave therapy, and even surgery.
Sprains and Strains
Sprains and strains occur when a joint, such as the elbow, is twisted while bearing weight. For example, an elbow could become sprained or strained while doing a cartwheel or lifting something heavy. Symptoms of sprains and strains include limited mobility, pain, swelling, cramping, and muscle spasms. The most common forms of treatment for sprains and strains include rest, icing the elbow, applying compression, elevating the arm, over-the-counter medication to reduce pain and inflammation, and a soft cast.
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
Have you ever heard of the cubital tunnel syndrome? Maybe you’ve heard the expression “I just hit my funny bone.” Cubital tunnel syndrome happens when the ulnar nerve is compressed, or hit. The ulnar nerve is the main nerve in your arm that runs all the way from your neck to the tips of your last three fingers. The most common and obvious symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome are sharp elbow pain along with numbness and tingling that runs from the elbow to the fingers. To prevent cubital tunnel syndrome, avoid activities that require a bent elbow for a long period. Do not sit at a desk with the chair too low and avoid leaning on your elbow or the side of your arm. You should also try to sleep with your elbow straight.
Dislocation is just what it sounds like. When a bone becomes dislocated, it slips out of the joint. This can happen to just about any joint, but the most common are the knee, elbow, hip, ankle, or shoulder. When it occurs, it’s painful. You will probably hear a popping sound. Untreated dislocations can cause serious long-term damage to affected ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels. Seek medical attention as soon as you experience a dislocation.
Visit Your Doctor
Call your healthcare provider immediately if you experience severe pain, swelling and bruising. If you have trouble moving your elbow or notice deformity seek medical help. Try self-care remedies before going to the emergency room if your conditions are bearable. This includes protecting the elbow from further injury, resting, applying ice and compression to the elbow, and raising the elbow. If at-home treatments do not improve your condition, schedule a doctor’s appointment.
Fun Fact About Elbows
Elbows may be small, but they are mighty! The elbow, which allows us to rotate our hands and do bicep curls, contains only three bones. However, there are 23 muscles allowing your arm to bend. The elbow houses important blood vessels and nerves in the hand and arm, making it extremely difficult to perform surgery on. Trampolines are the most common cause of elbow fractures, although something as simple as reading a book can cause an elbow injury.