My Elbow Hurt

Everyone has experienced brief pains in the elbow that can cause temporary discomfort -- but when chronic elbow pain refuses to go away, it can become quite bothersome. The elbow joint is a complex hinge joint that allows the arm to move in multiple planes of motion. It’s also one of the most frequently used joints in the body, which means it’s susceptible to injury and wear and tear over time. 

The most common cause of elbow pain is overuse injuries, including tendonitis, bursitis, sprains, and strains. That said, there are many different conditions that can cause elbow pain, all of which can be treated by the elbow pain treatment specialists at Greater Pittsburgh Orthopaedic Associates. Here are four of the most common elbow pain causes we see at GPOA:

1. Arthritis

Arthritis is a common cause of elbow pain, especially in older adults. There are many different types of arthritis, but the two most common types that affect the elbow are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis:

  • Osteoarthritis is a degenerative form of arthritis that occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of the bones wears down over time.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that causes the body’s immune system to attack the joints, causing pain and swelling.

Arthritis can be caused by a number of different factors, including age, genetics, previous injury, and repetitive motion. Treatment for arthritis typically focuses on pain relief and management. Like some of the top elbow surgeons near you, GPOA is committed to providing ongoing support for patients with arthritis, including surgical options when necessary.

2. Tendinitis

Tendinitis is the inflammation of a tendon, the thick band of tissue that connects muscle to bone. The elbow joint is surrounded by tendons, and when these tendons become inflamed, it can cause pain in the elbow joint. Common elbow pain symptoms related to tendinitis include:

  • Pain that worsens with activity or extended use of the arm
  • Swelling or tenderness around the elbow joint
  • Stiffness in the elbow joint

Tendinitis is often caused by repetitive motion, especially during sports. This is why different types of tendinitis are often known as tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow. It can also be caused by an injury or overuse of the elbow joint. Treatment for tendinitis typically includes rest, ice, and physical therapy. If the pain persists, GPOA offers several different types of conservative treatments, including ortho-biologic solutions and surgeries to treat tendinitis.

3. Bursitis

Bursitis is the inflammation of a bursa, a small, fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion between bones and muscles. There are many different bursae in the elbow joint, and when they become inflamed, it can cause pain in the elbow joint. If you're experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may have bursitis:

  • Pain that worsens with activity
  • Swelling or tenderness around the elbow joint
  • Stiffness in the elbow joint

Bursitis is often caused by repetitive motion, injury, or overuse of the elbow joint. Certain athletes are more prone to bursitis than others, including baseball players, tennis players, and golfers. At GPOA, we proudly provide nonsurgical and minimally invasive treatments for bursitis.

4. Elbow Fracture

Your elbow contains three bones: the ulna, the radius, and the humerus. The ulna and radius make up the lower arm, while the humerus is the upper arm bone. All three of these bones come together to form the elbow joint. An elbow fracture is a break in one or more of these bones.

Elbow fractures can happen due to a fall, a direct blow, or another type of trauma. This is especially prevalent in sports-related injuries, as well as work-related injuries for those in industries like construction. Symptoms of an elbow fracture include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising
  • Deformity of the elbow joint

If you think you may have fractured your elbow, it’s important to seek medical attention right away. Elbow fractures require prompt treatment to ensure proper healing. The board-certified elbow surgeons at GPOA are experienced in treating all types of elbow fractures, from simple breaks to complex fractures.

How To Ease Elbow Pain?

To ease elbow pain, several methods can be helpful:

  • Rest: Avoid activities that worsen the pain and give your elbow time to heal.
  • Heat or Cold Therapy: Apply a heat or ice pack to the affected area for about 10-15 minutes every few hours to reduce pain and stiffness.
  • Pain Relievers: Over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can provide temporary relief from elbow pain. Consult with a healthcare professional before taking any medication.
  • Physical Therapy: Work with a physical therapist to strengthen the muscles around the elbow, improve flexibility, and alleviate pain through targeted exercises.
  • Activity Modification: Avoid repetitive motions or activities that strain the elbow to prevent further injury and allow for healing.
  • Corticosteroid Injections: Healthcare professionals may recommend corticosteroid injections into the elbow joint to reduce inflammation and provide pain relief.

Find Relief from Elbow Pain with GPOA

If you’re experiencing any type of elbow pain, the first step is to schedule a consultation with the expert team at GPOA. We will work with you to develop a custom treatment plan that meets your specific needs, and our ultimate goal will be to help you return to full functionality.

At Greater Pittsburgh Orthopaedic Associates, our team of experienced orthopedic surgeons is dedicated to providing comprehensive care for all your orthopedic needs. We offer a full range of services, from sports medicine to elbow surgery. If you’re experiencing severe pain and you’re ready to receive the best elbow surgery Pittsburgh has to offer, schedule your first appointment with us today.

If you’re ready to find relief and return to the life you love, don’t wait! Contact GPOA today to schedule an appointment.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does elbow pain take to heal? 

The healing time for elbow pain can vary depending on the underlying cause and individual factors. In cases of tennis elbow, it can last between 6 months and 2 years, with most people experiencing a full recovery within a year. However, there are instances where it can persist for up to two years, even with treatment. It's important to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate assessment of your specific condition. 

How do you relieve pain in your elbow naturally?

While natural remedies may offer relief, consulting a healthcare professional is essential for accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment. Some natural approaches to ease elbow pain include rest, ice or heat therapy, gentle stretching and strengthening exercises, over-the-counter pain relief creams or gels, and practicing proper ergonomics during activities that strain the elbow. However, always follow professional medical advice.

Can elbow injuries heal on their own?

In some cases, mild cases of elbow injuries may resolve independently with rest, avoiding activities that aggravate the condition, and practicing self-care measures such as applying ice and gentle stretching. However, seeking medical attention if the pain persists or worsens is crucial to ensure proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

What happens if elbow pain is left untreated? 

Leaving elbow injury untreated can potentially lead to chronic pain, decreased range of motion, and limitations in daily activities. It's important to address the underlying cause of the pain and seek appropriate medical care to prevent further complications. Consultation with a healthcare professional is recommended for a proper evaluation and treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

What is the importance of disclosing my medical history to my healthcare provider?

Disclosing your complete and accurate medical history to your healthcare provider is crucial in ensuring appropriate treatment and preventing potential complications. Your past medical conditions, previous injuries, and medications can all impact your current state and influence the effectiveness of treatment plans.