Elbow Pain: What are the Causes

Elbow Pain Causes

Why Have I Got Elbow Pain?

Elbow pain can be caused by a variety of different medical conditions. It is important to know what is causing the pain you experience so that it can be treated properly and heal quickly. One of the most common causes is Arthritis, both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Tennis elbow is another common cause, and tennis is not the only activity that brings on this type of pain. Any kind of repetitive activity can cause tennis elbow. In addition to tennis, elbow pain can be caused by swimming, golfing, turning a key, or repetitive use of a tool such as a hammer or screwdriver. Another common cause is a fracture of the bones in the forearm. Fractures occur when pressure is placed on a bone that is more than the bone can support. If you suspect a fracture you should seek medical help immediately.

Sprains and strains are often to blame for elbow pain. A sprain occurs when a joint is twisted while under pressure. A strain results when too much force is placed on a muscle, such as may occur during weight-lifting. Carpal Tunnel syndrome originates in the wrist. The nerve which provides sensation to the thumb and fingers runs through a structure in the wrist called the Carpal Tunnel. Inflammation can occur in this area which puts pressure on the nerve and can cause a tingling sensation in the hand or a feeling of weakness. This pain can radiate up to the elbow. A dislocation of the bones occurs when some type of force causes a bone to move out of place. This requires medical attention. Inflammation of the tendons can also cause pain.

Elbow pain can be caused by tendinitis, which is inflammation of the tendon that connects the muscles to the bones. Tendinitis can cause acute pain and tenderness in the area affected. A less common cause is bursitis. Every joint has fluid-filled sacs around it called bursae. If these sacs become inflamed, they will cause pain and discomfort in the joint and can also limit the range of motion.

What Helps Tennis Elbow Pain?

Tennis Elbow results from the overuse of the ECRB muscle in the forearm which can result in small tears in the tendon. These tears are where the pain originates. Any kind of repetitive activity that involves twisting the wrist can cause Tennis Elbow. Treatment of Tennis Elbow may involve several different interventions. Your doctor will prescribe resting of the joint for several weeks and may even suggest a brace to facilitate the healing of the muscle involved. Ice packs can be very helpful in reducing the inflammation in the joint and in relieving the pain associated with inflammation. The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs will also be useful for pain relief.

How to Heal Elbow Pain

The way to heal Elbow Pain is to give it time and rest from whatever activity triggered the pain. There are however treatments available which can help to speed up the healing process. Your doctor may suggest physical therapy to help strengthen the muscle. A physical therapist will have a variety of exercise options that will help to strengthen the muscle and they may also use ice massage and muscle-stimulating techniques. Another option is ultrasound therapy which uses sound waves to promote healing and reduce inflammation. Your doctor may suggest steroid injection, which goes directly into the muscle or tendon to reduce pain.

Shock wave therapy is a new treatment that is being used on an experimental basis. Like ultrasound, this therapy uses sound waves to promote healing. If you are still experiencing pain after a year, your doctor may recommend surgery. The surgeon will remove dead tissue and reattach good muscle to the bone. After the surgery, your arm will probably be immobilized with a splint. Surgery is effective in 80-90% of patients, however there may be some loss of muscle strength afterwards.

How to Prevent Elbow Pain

Elbow Pain can be prevented and there are a number of different ways to do this. First of all, if you are engaged in a repetitive activity, whether it is a sport or a task you perform at work, you should make sure you have all the right equipment for the task. Also, make sure that you have been trained in the proper technique for the task. In addition to learning the proper technique, you can practice exercises that will help to strengthen and increase the flexibility of the forearm muscles.

Another way to help prevent elbow pain is to apply ice to the elbow after you have engaged in an intense round of the activity that causes the pain. This will help to reduce any inflammation that may have started in the joint. Finally, if it’s painful to bend or straighten your arm, you should give the joint some time to rest.


In this instance, an athlete was originally diagnosed with minor quadriceps muscle strain and was treated for four weeks, with unsatisfactory results. When he came to our clinic, the muscle was not healing, and the patients’ muscle tissue had already begun to atrophy.

Upon examination using MSUS, we discovered that he had a full muscle thickness tear that had been overlooked by his previous provider. To mitigate damage and promote healing, surgery should have been performed immediately after the injury occurred. Because of misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment, the patient now has permanent damage that cannot be corrected.

The most important advantage of Ultrasound over MRI imaging is its ability to zero in on the symptomatic region and obtain imaging, with active participation and feedback from the patient. Using dynamic MSUS, we can see what happens when patients contract their muscles, something that cannot be done with MRI. From a diagnostic perspective, this interaction is invaluable.

Dynamic ultrasonography examination demonstrating
the full thickness tear and already occurring muscle atrophy
due to misdiagnosis and not referring the patient
to proper diagnostic workup

Demonstration of how very small muscle defect is made and revealed
to be a complete tear with muscle contraction
under diagnostic sonography (not possible with MRI)


Complete tear of rectus femoris
with large hematoma (blood)


Separation of muscle ends due to tear elicited
on dynamic sonography examination

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