Elbow pain is the result of damage to or disease of bone, tendons, ligaments or cartilage around the elbow. The pain or discomfort is often accompanied by other symptoms, such as tenderness, swelling, numbness, visible deformity of the joint or stiffness and loss of motion.
Athletes have an increased risk of developing these problems, but joint-related issues can affect anyone, at any age.
Injuries That Cause Pain in the Elbow
Fractures, dislocations and sprains, which are stretch or tear injuries to the ligaments, can result from falls, twists or blows to the area and cause significant pain.
Tendonitis is another common elbow injury, but occurs after repetitive use and over use. Tennis elbow is a type of tendonitis in which the outside bony portion of the elbow joint becomes inflamed and painful. With golfer’s elbow, the opposite occurs, as the inner tendons are injured. The repetitive motions involved in playing sports like tennis or golf, or other repeated motions such as using hand tools or painting, can cause either of these injuries.
Diseases and Conditions That Cause Elbow Pain
Several systemic forms of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, gouty arthritis and psoriatic arthritis, can cause elbow pain and inflammation.
Bursitis is a common cause of elbow pain and swelling. This occurs when fluid collects over the point on the back of the elbow. Bursitis can be caused by repetitive use, trauma, or infection.
Septic arthritis, or an infection of the joint itself, is a rare elbow condition that results in severe pain and stiffness. This is usually only seen in patients with compromised immune systems, due to diabetes, chemotherapy, chronic disease, and intravenous drug users.
In rare cases, a bone tumor may be the cause of pain and other symptoms.
Diagnosing Elbow Symptoms
When diagnosing elbow pain, the doctor will take a medical history to learn about recent injuries and any past issues with the elbow joint. He or she will then examine the arm and joint to determine the location and scope of pain, as well as any swelling or visible deformities of the joint. The doctor also will test your mobility and range of motion. Other tests, such as an X-ray or MRI, may be ordered as a further aid in diagnosis.
Treatment recommendations depend upon the particular injury or condition causing the elbow pain, but may include the RICE treatment ― rest, ice, compression and elevation ― immobilizing the affected area with a brace or cast, cortisone injections, physical therapy, pain management, or in rare cases, surgery.
Orthopedic surgeons can accurately diagnose elbow problems and offer the most appropriate treatment options to restore function and relieve pain. Contact the experienced professionals at Steward Health Care: Centers of Orthopedic & Sports Medicine if you are suffering from elbow pain or related symptoms.