Overview of Elbow Pain

Overview of Elbow Pain

It’s easy to take your elbows and other joints for granted, but when they get hurt, you suddenly realize their importance. Your elbows are at risk for pain primarily due to overuse, but elbow pain has many other causes too.

Your elbows are joints made up of bones, cartilage, muscles, ligaments and joints. Each of these areas is at risk for some form of pain or injury, and when one of them is hurt, the entire elbow suffers for it.

Elbow pain can be managed with treatment by health care professionals like physical therapists. Some cases of elbow pain are mild and temporary, and others need professional treatment. Learn more about elbow pain and its symptoms, causes and treatments to know when you should seek professional treatment or if you need to rest and take some pain medication.

Symptoms of elbow pain

Since there are many parts that make up the elbow, there are many conditions that can cause pain. As mentioned before, some conditions are mild and are not of great concern, but others are serious and require professional treatment.

Mild elbow pain may only be a dull and achy or sharp pain in the elbow due to overuse. This kind of pain should go away after a couple of days.

Signs of serious elbow pain include:

  • Pain that is severe or lasts longer than a few days
  • Pain that persists regardless of whether you’re resting or using your arm
  • Redness and swelling
  • Stiffness and loss of motion
  • Deformed appearance of the joint

If you have any of these symptoms, please visit your health care provider for diagnosis and treatment. Do not try to ignore the pain and be tough. If serious elbow pain is left untreated, the pain can grow worse or cause permanent disability.

Causes of elbow pain

Mild elbow pain may be caused by strain to one of the muscles or ligaments due to overuse or failure to warm up before activity.

Severe elbow pain has serious causes that require medical attention. If you are suffering from severe elbow pain, your physician will check for the following common causes:

  • Tendinitis — Tendinitis is commonly referred to as tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow because of its association with these sports. This condition causes inflammation in the tendons that connect your muscles to your elbow due to overuse and improper warming up.
  • Bursitis — Your joints are cushioned against friction by tiny jelly-like sacs of liquid called bursae. Bursitis is when one of these sacs becomes inflamed or swells and causes your joint to hurt and grow stiff.
  • Arthritis — Arthritis attacks the joints in your body by wearing down cartilage and the bones. It can occur as an immune disease or from age and overuse.
  • Dislocation — Traumatic injury can cause the elbow joint to dislocate from the socket. Sometimes it can pop back into place by itself immediately after this happens, but many people need medical assistance for treatment.
  • Fracture — The bones in the elbow can break due to traumatic injury or osteoporosis, which is a condition that causes the bones to grow weak and break easily.
  • Sprains and strains  The ligaments and muscles in your elbow can get stretched or town due to overuse and injury.

Diagnosing elbow pain

Your primary care provider will diagnose the cause of your elbow pain to form an effective treatment. A diagnosis includes an examination of your symptoms and a review of the events leading up to your pain. Your primary care provider will also review your age, sex, medical history and other relevant factors.

A complete diagnosis may also include some tests like the following:

  • CT scan
  • X-ray
  • MRI
  • EMG (electromyography)
  • Ultrasound
  • Biopsy of the bursa

These tests will provide your physician with images of your bones and tissue to help identify the source of your pain.

Treating elbow pain

Your elbow pain treatment depends on the nature of your pain and personal factors like age and medical history. In extreme cases, you may need surgery, but many cases of elbow pain can be treated with medication and physical therapy.

Physical therapy for elbow pain is personalized to the needs of each patient. The typical objective is to strengthen and stretch the muscles and ligaments to help reduce pain and improve your ability to use the elbow again. Many physical therapy treatments for elbow pain include:

  • Stretching and exercising
  • Massage
  • Taping
  • Cold and hot therapy
  • Ultrasound
  • Controlled movements

If your condition is severe enough to require surgery, you can still benefit from physical therapy. A physical therapist can help your body prepare before surgery and recover faster afterward.

Schedule an appointment for elbow pain at Advent Physical Therapy

The team at Advent Physical Therapy has been treating conditions like elbow pain for more than 20 years. If you are suffering from elbow pain and would like help reducing your pain and regaining your ability to use your elbow, contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our physical therapists.