Elbow Pain Explained
Imagine yourself functioning in your normal day-to-day activities. Maybe you are working at your desk. Or, you are having lunch in the breakroom at your workplace. Or, maybe you are in your kitchen at home. You reach for an object and suddenly… “Ouch! what was that?”
You just experienced elbow pain, and you have no idea why. That’s okay because many people do not know the details about how their elbows work, which makes it tough to know what might cause pain or discomfort when it happens unexpectedly.
Of course, that also makes it difficult to know whether or not you suddenly have a medical issue that needs attention when you do experience elbow pain. While pain in this area usually isn’t serious, it can lead to frustration. Because your elbow is actually a complex joint, which allows you to extend, flex, and rotate your hand and forearm. Since most movements can involve all of these actions, it may be difficult for you to even describe the specific movement that causes your pain.
But if you can educate yourself about your elbow, and learn about what might cause your elbow to hurt, then you are on the road toward knowing what to do if you feel pain. There are three bones in your elbow. which is located between the upper and lower parts of your arm. They are the humerus, which extends from the shoulder, and two large bones of your forearm – the radius, which runs from the elbow, to the thumb side of your wrist, and the ulna, which runs from the elbow to the pinkie side of your wrist.
Each bone contains cartilage, which you need in order for these bones to slide against each other. They are held in place by ligaments as tendons, which are both tough tissues, yet are not the same. Your ligaments hold the bones together, while your tendons attach your muscles to your bones.
This might seem like a complex system, but it works very well for all of us. Unless of course, something happens to any of these parts that were mentioned. Or to your nerves, or the blood vessels that surround the area. If you have an issue that impacts any of the items that were mentioned, then you may find yourself dealing with pain.
Sometimes, elbow pain can be caused by an injury, which could include a dislocated elbow or even a fractured elbow. But discomfort can also be due to a strain or sprain, which can be the result of wear and tear that has accumulated over a period of time. This could be the byproduct of repetitive motion, either from continually making the same move during your workouts or when you are playing sports, or from repeating the same motion with your wrist. hand, or arm as you go about doing your job in the workplace. If it is a strain or a sprain, the good news is that it can be treated with rest and ice.
Bursitis is a specific wear-and-tear injury that results from often repeating the same motion over and over. Your bursa are small sacs that contain fluid, and they are there to protect your bones, tendons, and muscles. But sometimes they become swollen, and will then cause you pain. However, bursitis is treatable and usually gets better within several weeks. Your pain could also be due to tendonitis, which is a swelling in the tendons around your elbow. This can also occur from overuse.
You probably have heard the term carpal tunnel syndrome, which occurs when the median nerve in your hand becomes squeezed or compressed as it travels through your wrist. If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, you may feel, burning, numbness, tingling, or pain. These symptoms also occur if you have cubital tunnel syndrome. That involves one of the main nerves in your arm called the ulnar nerve, which can get squeezed as it runs along the inside of your elbow while it passes through the tissue called the cubital tunnel. If you have this, you may feel burning or numbness in your hand, arm, or fingers. Another possibility is cubital tunnel syndrome, which can result from pressure on your ulnar nerve, which is also referred to as the funny bone. this also causes numbness or tingling in the forearm, and small fingers.
If you have pressure on your radial nerve, you may have radial tunnel syndrome, which can cause aching pain near the top of your forearm. If it turns out that you have a stress fracture, that means you have a small crack in one of your arm bones. That usually occurs from overuse. Elbow pain can also occur due to a stress fracture, which is something that confronts athletes who throw frequently. If you have a stress fracture, the pain usually feels worse when you are throwing.
Another possibility that stems from overuse is golfer’s elbow, which can involve pain where the tendons of your forearm muscles attach to the inside of your elbow. The pain can also spread into your forearm and wrist. Golfer’s elbow affects the inside of the elbow, and is similar to tennis elbow, which occurs on the outside of the elbow.
There are also several diseases that can also cause elbow pain. One of them is arthritis which includes rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common, and can take place when your immune system creates swelling in your joints. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease in which your cartilage gradually wears away. However, while elbow pain may occasionally be due to arthritis, your elbow joint is generally far less prone to wear-and-tear damage than many other joints.
Here is a larger list of potential causes for pain in your elbow:
- Sprains and Strains
- Golfer’s’ Elbow
- Tennis Elbow
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Osteochondritis Dissecans
- Trapped Nerves
- Throwing Injuries
- Golfer’s Elbow
- Broken Arm
- Dislocated Elbow
You should call your doctor if rest and ice do not cause the pain to go away or you have pain even when you are not moving your arm. You should also call the doctor if your pain becomes intense, or, if you have swelling, redness, or bruising around your elbow. Also, check with your doctor if you have trouble bending your arm.