What is Elbow Pain? 

Your elbow lets you do a lot of day-to-day tasks. The elbow joint enables us to left, throw, swing, swerve and also helps support writing or playing a beloved sport. Although these tasks may appear simple, the elbow joint is quite complex in its structure. There are quite a lot of ways this structure can be affected.

The elbow joint is formed as a culmination of three bones. It consists of the bone of your upper arm, also known as the humerus, the ulna, and radius- these two bones are present in your forearm. Like with most bones in the body, these bones have protective cartilage that acts as a shockproof element and lets the bones slide against each other, negating the friction caused by them. They are also supported by strong tissues- commonly known as ligaments. These bones are connected to the muscles with tendons that facilitate movement and allow you to perform different tasks. 

Elbow pain when bending, Tennis elbow, outer elbow pain, etc are all caused when any of these complex structures are affected. Pain can also be caused if the surrounding nerves in your elbow are impinged or disturbed causing pain and discomfort. Although treatment solutions like physiotherapy for elbow pain, elbow pain exercises, medical treatment, etc are present- it is best to know and identify the cause and symptoms of your elbow pain.

Elbow Pain Symptoms and Signs

Here are some of the signs that you should look for if you have been feeling some pain in your elbow- 

  • Elongated periods of elbow pain that do not subside after rest or ice. 
  • Elbow pain is still present despite immobilisation of the arm. 
  • Inflammation and swelling around the elbow 
  • Intense pain and redness around the elbow that gets progressively worse 
  • Difficulty using your arm 
  • Limited range of motion and unable to perform daily tasks- even lifting a light object hurts.

Also Read: Tennis Elbow: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Elbow Pain Causes and Treatment

Injuries Caused Due to Accidents

These types of injuries are caused due to a traumatic accident, a recent fall, or while playing a sport. Here are some of the common injuries that follow- 

  • Dislocation– Dislocation usually happens when the structure and position of the bones get vastly affected. This happens when the bones get knocked out of the socket. One of the common reasons why this happens is when your hand faces the blunt force of the trauma or fall. This condition can also happen to toddler’s which is caused by the nursemaid’s elbow. This happens when we swing them using their forearms and their delicate bones are unable to take the pressure. 
  • Fracture– This is one of the most common forms of injury that can happen to your elbow. This is especially true for people involved in a sport or an accident. This happens when one of the bones supporting your elbow breaks- it can be a hairline or grave fracture. You might be able to move your arm but it needs emergent medical care and treatment. 
  • Sprain– These are milder forms of an elbow injury. If you push too far, you might have some minor elbow pain while bending. This usually happens when you overdo it, whether it is lifting a heavy object while working out or more- this is when the muscles get stretched or torn, which is called a strain. When this activity hurts your ligaments- that is called a sprain. 

Treatment- For injuries, elbow pain treatment can be the following

  • Physiotherapy for elbow pain is recommended for people involved in a traumatic accident or serious sports injury to help bring back mobility. 
  • Rest, ice, and elevate are sufficient for minor sprains and bruises. 
  • Supportive equipment, recommended by your doctor should be worn at all times to act as compression instruments. 
  • Elbow pain exercises as recommended by your doctor or physiotherapist. 

Overuse Injuries

Another common form of elbow pain is caused by wear and tear or overuse injury. Repeated actions of stress on your elbow can cause this injury. This usually happens when you are in an occupation that engages you to use your elbow at all times. If you are a sportsperson, then this kind of injury is common especially in tennis and other forms of contact sports. 

Treatment- For this kind of cause, elbow pain treatment is- 

  • Physiotherapy for elbow pain- to figure out and emphasize movement correction and postural strategies to reduce overuse of the elbow. 
  • Medical consultation to rule out any pre-existing health conditions exacerbating the problem. 
  • Physiotherapy elbow pain exercises can be easily performed to help reduce short-term pain symptoms and prevent these in the long term. 

Bursitis

This is a common consequence of wear and tear injury. So if you are involved in an occupation or sport that requires repetitive motion of your elbows, then you are susceptible to this disease. Just like your cartilage, there is another protective mechanism in your bones, muscles and tendons. Bursa is tiny fluid-filled sacs that help cushion the movements of your bones and joints. They prevent friction and let skin easily slide over the bone. When these get affected, they swell up and cause pain. 

Treatment– The elbow pain treatment for bursitis is- 

  • Get a medical consulation and physical examination by your doctor. 
  • In most scenarios, they treat it with just pain medication for short-term pain management. 
  • For long term prevention, it is best to sought physiotherapy for elbow pain. 

Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow or Golfer’s elbow, however you want to call it, is actually very similar injuries. These are kinds of tendinosis that actually translates to damage in the tendons of your elbow due to overuse or overstretch. However, the name of this disoreder can be quite deceiving as this does not happen to just sports people. It is just named this way beacuse of the arm motions involved in these sports. The difference between these two sports is that Tennis Elbow causes outer elbow pain, while Golfer’s elbow causes inner elbow pain. 

Treatment– For this, treatment for elbow pain is as follows- 

  • Physiotherapy for elbow pain when it comes to Tennis elbow is a must. If you are involved in a particular sport, or exercise, this is a great long-term prevention plan. 
  • Elbow pain exercises- whether prescribed by your physiotherapist or doctor is a must. It helps strengthen your muscles and helps in long-term prevention. 
  • Pain medication as prescibed for your doctor for short term pain management. 
  • Wearing elbow braces or compression equipment to prevent overuse for the healing period. 

Nerve Issues

Nerve issues related to elbow pain is similar to the ones associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. With the nerves present in the elbow, some of them can get squeezed and impinged to create pain and discomfort in the elbow. This is another overuse injury- related to occupation-related or sports-related overuse injuries. There are 2 kinds of nerve injuries- 

  • Cubital Tunnel Syndrome– This happens when the main nerves in your arm, or the ulnar nerve gets affected as it runs along the length of your elbow through a tissue called the cubital tunnel. This causes intense burning sensation, numbness and pain.
  • Radial Tunnel Syndrome– This affects the radial nerve which passes through the radial tunnel along the elbow, almost on the outside of it. It also causes burning sensation and numbness in your arms and fingers. 

Treatment- Treatment for nerve issues in your elbow are- 

  • Proper diagnostic tests to figure out the problem and the affected area in the elbow. 
  • Medical consultation with a nerve specialist to rule out any other issue. 
  • Physiotherapy for elbow pain for short term pain management, and help with restoring range of motion and flexibility. 
  • Therapeutic and corrective elbow pain exercises to regain functionality. 
  • Compression equipment to minimise movement during the initial stages of recovery.

Also Read: What Exercises Are Good for Elbow Pain

Head on to Phyt Health, India’s first digital physiotherapy platform offering online physiotherapy services and consultations. With a wealth of knee exercises present on their website, you can include them in your daily life depending on your comfort level. All these exercises are curated by expert physiotherapists at Phyt Health. You can also book your online video consultation on the app, to discuss any issues you might be facing and begin your journey towards recovery!