Causes of Elbow Joint Pain and How It Can Be Relieved

Posted by Total Rehab Solutions on

woman treating elbow pain with cold pack

Pain in your elbow can occur with or without an injury. Often overlooked, this joint is important to keep healthy if you want to maintain your independence. You may not think much about your elbow, but even though it's not a weight-bearing joint, without the use of it, many daily activities can be a struggle. Pain in your elbow bone can cause dressing, cooking, driving, writing, or any other activity that requires the use of your arm, to be difficult to perform.

Although your elbow is less prone to wear-and-tear than other joints, occasional pain can be present and this is normal. Living with severe, chronic pain, however, isn't. Narrowing down what causes elbow pain and finding the best treatment for it, will ensure that your elbow is taken good care of.


Non-Injury Related Causes of Elbow Joint Pain

Inflammation: Since the elbow is made up of ligaments, tendons, muscles, and bones, like other joints, it can become inflamed. This inflammation is called tendinitis and it often occurs when your elbow is overused. Household chores, repetitive movements in the workplace, and sport play can all be possible causes of elbow overuse. The pain from tendinitis travels from within your elbow bone to your upper or lower arm.

Nerve Entrapment: Referred to as cubital tunnel syndrome, a pinched nerve in the elbow occurs when too much pressure is placed against a nerve in your elbow. This pressure can be from bones, muscles, tendons, or cartilage. Inflammation and swelling caused by a pinched nerve can leave your hand or fingers feeling tingling, numb, weak, or sore.

Arthritis: When cartilage in the elbow suffers from wear-and-tear, elbow arthritis occurs. Different forms of this exist, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis in the elbow can be painful and is often described as dull or throbbing. This pain can however interfere with your ability to perform everyday tasks where bending your arm is necessary.

Gout: The buildup of uric acid in your bloodstream lead to sharp crystals being deposited into your tissue and joints. It causes intense pain accompanied by swelling within your elbow joint, and this is referred to as elbow gout.

Lupus: If you suffer from lupus, your elbow can become affected too. The inflammation caused by this disease is referred to as lupus arthritis and symptoms include your elbow feeling warm to the touch.

Medical Problems: If you're experiencing another medical problem elsewhere in your body, referred elbow pain can be caused.


Injury Related Causes of Elbow Pain

Fractures: If you fall onto an outstretched arm, you're likely to break a bone in your elbow. This usually happens as a sudden blow during an accident or contact sport. A fractured elbow can still move afterward, but if any pain occurs or it simply doesn't look right, chances are it's broken.

Dislocations: A dislocated elbow occurs when one of the bones that form part of your elbow is knocked out of its place. This can happen during a fall, and most often happens when toddlers are swung by their forearms. Symptoms of a dislocated elbow include swelling, extreme pain, and the

inability to bend your arm. Losing feeling in your hand and no longer feeling your pulse on the affected arm, is rare, but possible symptoms.

Strains and Sprains: Symptoms of an elbow strain or sprain include swelling, tenderness, bruising, and pain. Elbow strains are caused when a muscle is torn or stretched in your elbow area, while sprains occur when ligaments get torn or stretched. When you strain or sprain your elbow, you may also experience restricted movement.

Bursitis: When you receive a hard blow to the tip of your elbow, the bursa can be triggered to produce excess fluid. This fluid production leads to swelling and prolonged pressure in your elbow. Another common cause of the bursa swelling is leaning on the tip of your elbow, though this occurs when done repetitively over several months.


At Home Treatment for Elbow Joint Pain

While some causes of elbow bone pain should be treated with surgery or medication, many simply require support in the affected area. Making use of an elbow splint can relieve pain and speed up the recovery process. Elbow splints are commonly used and it increases your ability to freely move your arm and elbow after an injury.

The Comfort Cool® Open Elbow Support is a recommended elbow splint for treating elbow bone pain caused by sprains, strains, bursitis, cubital tunnel syndrome, tennis or golfer's elbow, and arthritis. It's lightweight, lined with soft material, and provides compression, protection, and warmth.

Designed to easily wrap around different arm sizes, the Comfort Cool® Open Elbow Support is ideal to help you manage and heal elbow bone pain.

In conjunction with bracing your elbow, you can do the following to treat and heal your elbow pain faster:

  • Protect your elbow from further injury by avoiding the activity that initially caused the pain.
  • Rest your elbow as much as possible to avoid putting further strain on it.
  • Make use of ice therapy by placing an ice pack on the affected area for about 15 minutes thrice daily. Use a cloth between the ice pack and your skin. Ice therapy numbs pain and it causes your blood vessels to restrict, which in turn reduces swelling.
  • Make use of heat therapy by placing a heating pad around your elbow (protected by a thin cloth). This will encourage healing through reinforcing positive blood and nutrient flow to your elbow.
  • Elevate your elbow above your chest as often as possible. Elevation can be done by simply lifting your arm or propping it into a comfortable position. Elevation helps to decrease swelling and pain. Remember to wiggle your fingers to prevent hand stiffness!

Once your elbow pain has disappeared or the bone has healed, look into recommended physical exercise as a means to strengthen your elbow muscles that surround the joint.


Professional Treatments for Elbow Pain Relief

Just like most medical conditions and injuries, there is only so much you can do at home. You should always consider getting a professional's opinion on the injury or pain. If your elbow joint pain is severe, seeking a physical therapist in your area may be a great idea. 

When you look for pain relief treatments, you will find some of the following:

  • Iontophoresis
  • Ultrasound Treatments
  • Soft-Tissue Mobilization
  • Physical Therapy 
  • Range of Motion Exercises
  • Hot and Cold Therapy


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