Pain in the elbow is usually a result of tendinitis, but other causes include bursitis, arthritis, and trauma.
The elbow is a fairly stable joint, so traumatic injuries to the joint are not common. Direct impacts and large forces may cause fractures or dislocations.
Injuries to either of the supporting ligaments (medial ligament or lateral ligament) on either side of the joint may occur, usually when the forearm is forced in the opposite direction to the upper arm.
Overuse injuries are far more common at the elbow, especially tendinopathy conditions known as tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) and golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis). Tendinopathy of the biceps tendon can also occur, as can triceps tendinopathy.
- Swelling & or bruising
- Pain on bending the elbow against resistance
- Pain increases with activity
- Pain radiating into the upper arm
- Symptoms worse at night
- Pain on bending the wrist down against resistance
- Pain in the elbow joint
- Difficulty fully straightening the arm
- Tingling in the hand/forearm
- Weakness with gripping
Tennis elbow causes pain on the outside of the joint and it is usually very tender to touch just below the bone. It is caused by repetitive wrist movements.
Golfer’s elbow causes pain on the inside of the elbow. The muscle attachments just below the bone are usually very tender to touch.
Student’s elbow is also known as olecranon bursitis. It can occur through a direct impact or repetitive pressure. Swelling at the back of the elbow is a prominent feature.
The olecranon is the large bony prominence which can be felt at the back of the elbow. A fracture occurs after an impact such as falling onto the elbow, or a forceful contraction of the triceps muscle which can cause an avulsion fracture.
Ulna Nerve Injury
Injury to the ulna nerve at the elbow can be from a direct impact or an entrapment of the nerve. Neural symptoms such as tingling or numbness are felt in the little and ring fingers.
Osteochondritis dissecans is a fragmentation of the cartilage and sometimes the underlying bone within a joint. This is common in adolescents as the ends of the bones are not yet fully hardened.
Triceps Tendon Inflammation
The triceps tendon is located at the back of the elbow. Inflammation can develop due to repetitive tasks and overuse, resulting in pain and tenderness, especially on straightening the elbow against resistance.
Pronator Teres Syndrome
Pronator Teres Syndrome is an entrapment of the median nerve between the two heads of the pronator teres muscle. There is often no pain, but tingling and weakness in the forearm, wrist, and hand.
Median Nerve Injury
Injuries to the median nerve at the elbow are either due to a lesion caused by a traumatic injury, or an entrapment which usually develops more gradually. Symptoms involve tingling, numbness or weakness into the hand, thumb, index, and middle fingers.
Forearm splints is similar to shin splints in the lower leg, although far less common. It occurs in those who repetitively use their wrist, contracting the forearm muscles.
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
Cubital tunnel syndrome in an entrapment of the ulnar nerve on the inside of the elbow. This is similar to ulnar nerve injuries, although it always develops gradually, not from an acute injury.
A dislocation of the elbow is a very severe injury caused by a fall onto the arm or a hard impact. It causes severe pain and the joint may look deformed.
Biceps Tendon Inflammation
The biceps tendon is found at the front of the elbow. It can become inflamed and painful which makes it tender to touch. Bending the elbow against resistance may also be painful.
Radial Nerve Entrapment
Radial nerve injuries often have similar symptoms to tennis elbow. Any tingling or numbness suggests a nerve injury, as may neck stiffness or pain.
Medial Ligament Sprain
The medial ligament is found on the inner elbow and is either injured through an impact forcing the forearm outward, or by repetitive throwing.
Elbow Hyperextension Injury
Hyperextension injuries occur when the arm is bent beyond its normal range of motion. This causes damage to the soft tissues, especially at the front of the elbow.
Anterior Interosseous Syndrome
This is an entrapment of the anterior interosseous nerve which is a branch of the median nerve. It may be caused by fractures and dislocations or by less obvious causes, such as biceps bursitis and anatomical variations.
Volkmann’s contracture is caused by a lack of blood flow to the forearm. The cause of this is usually an acute injury (such as a fracture or crush injury) to the upper arm or elbow area.
The triceps muscle is found at the back of the upper arm. A strain is a tear of the muscle, usually caused by a forceful contraction to straighten the arm or prevent rapid flexion.
A contusion occurs after a direct impact to a muscle, which crushes it against the underlying bone, resulting in bleeding within the muscle.
Myositis ossificans develops after a contusion or bleed within the muscle. It is the ossification of the bleed, resulting in a hard lump within the muscle.
Radial Head Fracture
The radial head can be felt on the inner side of the forearm, just below the elbow. A fracture occurs after a fall onto an outstretched hand or may be associated with an elbow dislocation.
Getting a Diagnosis for your Arm & Elbow Pain
If you have tingling, numbness, or pain in your arm or elbow, see a doctor. He or she will take your medical history, examine you, and possibly perform tests. These may include X-rays, imaging scans, or blood tests. After the examination the pain management doctors and pain management professionals at Colorado Pain & Injury Specialists will clearly explain to you the condition, possible sources of your pain, and which pain treatment will help alleviate your pain.