Elbow pain - causes and treatment

One of the most common complaints with which people go to a doctor is pain in the elbow joint of the hands. Depending on the nature and type of pain, the patient may turn to a traumatologist, rheumatologist or neurologist.

Pain may occur when the arm is flexed and straightened, or not affected by movement. Pain extends to the tendons, muscles, bones and joints of the arm, above the site of injury.

The reasons why it may arise a lot. That is why it is necessary to undergo an examination by a specialist, who will accurately identify the causes of pain, tell what it means, and prescribe a comprehensive treatment.

Anatomy of the elbow joint

The elbow joint of the bones (shoulder with the ulnar and radial) is formed by three joints joined by a common joint capsule:

  • The humeral joint is a joint of spherical bones, represented by the heads of the projections of the humerus and radial bones. The direction of movement of the joint is organized according to the frontal axis and is made in conjunction with the shoulder joint. The proximal radioulnar joint has a cylindrical shape, carrying out rotational movements.
  • The shoulder joint is the union of bones with helical articular surfaces. The humerus, which has a block at the lower end, is connected to the screw-shaped notch and the comb of the ulnar bone. The movements of this joint are made in amplitude up to 140 degrees.

The elbow joint protrudes through a thin layer of skin and is well felt on palpation. Due to frequent flexion and extension of the arm, as well as the presence of protruding parts of the articular articulation, strokes and other injuries of the elbow are frequent.

Causes of pain in the elbow joints of the hands

Periodically occurring discomfort in the elbow area may indicate the presence of many different diseases. So, consider the main causes of pain in the elbow:

  • arthritis;
  • arthrosis;
  • gout;
  • epicondylitis (lateral and medial);
  • bursitis;
  • pain syndromes;
  • mechanical damage.

The appearance of pain in the elbow joint should alert the person. Pain can be a characteristic symptom of various diseases, which can be identified by a highly qualified specialist after conducting serious diagnostic activities.

Causes of pain in the elbow when flexing and unbending

Pain in the elbow joint with flexion and extension of the right or left hand is noted for such illnesses:

  • arthritis, bursitis - any movement in the elbow joint is painful, edema is characteristic in the acute phase,
  • fever, redness of the skin over the affected joint;
  • deforming arthrosis (usually accompanied by a crunch, and extension will be painful);
  • after injury;
  • tumors.

Pain in the elbow when flexing the hand and rotating (turning the hand) occurs against the background of a medial epicondylitis ("golfer's elbow").

Causes of pain from the inside of the arm

Pain from the inside occurs with a medial epicondylitis, with bruising and other traumatic injuries from the inside of the elbow.

Injuries of limbs with injuries

Nobody is insured against injuries, therefore, from the pain in their elbows caused by them. Dislocations, sprains, fractures can be the result of a fall or even improper movement of the limb.

In case of a fracture, the pain is very strong, the hand becomes paralyzed (takes on an atypical position), it is difficult to move, a swelling or swelling of the entire limb is formed at the fracture site, and bruising can occur. The strength of the pain, the size and nature of the external manifestations depend on the complexity of the fracture.

In case of sprains and sprains, the symptoms are similar: the pain is sharp, severe, the extremity swells, the injury site may turn red and swell. Different external manifestations also occur with damage to nerve fibers and blood vessels: first, weakness, numbness, tingling; second, paleness and coldness of the skin at the site of injury.


Pain in the elbow is manifested when bending / unbending the arm at the bottom of the elbow. After a short period of time, the pain syndrome completely covers the joint, any movement of the arm leads to its strengthening. Pain does not go away even in moments of complete rest. Rarely observed swelling, limited movement, crunching is audible when the joint moves.

It is possible to treat both with medical and surgical methods. The medical method can include the provision of complete rest of the joint, medication, physical therapy. in some cases it is necessary to do the operation. The essence of the surgical intervention is to remove the problem areas of the bone or complete replacement of the joint.


Joint disease with degenerative-dystrophic changes, which occurs due to damage to the cartilage tissue in the articular membrane.

In this case, pain syndrome in the elbow joint is not so intensely expressed as in the first case (arthritis). Moreover, the painful sensations make themselves felt only during sudden movements with the highest amplitude: when you try to unbend your arms strongly at the elbow, or vice versa, try to bend them very tightly. Directly, at these very moments of movement in the joint, patients often notice the appearance of a crunch, at which the elbow swells somewhat.

Palpation of the ulnar region is almost unhealthy, there is no redness, an increase in the temperature of the skin surface. This is explained by the fact that in case of arthrosis there is no intensive inflammatory process. With an increase in the course of the disease, the mobility of the joint gradually decreases, it becomes more and more difficult for the patient to perform any actions of the upper limbs, and the range of movements available at the moment decreases sharply.

Deforming osteoarthritis

It is a degenerative elbow disease, based on the gradual destruction of articular surfaces. It develops due to deterioration of blood circulation in this area, as well as after suffering injuries due to violation of the congruence of the articular surfaces.

At first, the patient feels pain in the elbow periodically, it is aching and quite tolerable. At the initial stages of movement are saved in full. In the later stages of the disease, the deformity of the joint occurs, a violation of its mobility, pain increases (the pain is pulling, aching, can be observed alone, accompanied by a characteristic crunch).

Treatment: taking medications that improve blood supply and nutrition of the joint. If necessary, surgery is performed - plastic surgery or elbow arthroplasty.


The disease involves the deposition of urates (uric acid salts). Diseases are more susceptible to men than women. Gout can affect any joint, including the elbow. In women, the disease can manifest itself after menopause, and in men after forty years. People with diabetes or hypertension are prone to gout.

The reason may be unhealthy diet, frequent use of alcohol or hereditary predisposition. Attacks of the disease occur at night. The patient experiences intense and sudden pain, heat in the affected joint. If the disease is not treated, the attacks become more frequent.


The most common cause is the performance of repetitive movements of the same type: working in the country, playing sports, controlling a computer mouse, any mechanisms requiring tension of the flexor muscles or hand extensors.

It is characterized by pain when feeling the attachment points of the tendons of these muscles, as well as pain with active flexion of the hand (internal epicondylitis) or extension of it (external). The pain may continue down the forearm. Movement in the elbow joint, as a rule, is not limited.

In addition, epicondylitis very often affects athletes, especially tennis and golf players, hence the other names - "tennis elbow" and "golfer's elbow".

Lateral epicondylitis

Depending on which bone of the elbow is affected (lateral or medial), two types of epicondylitis are divided: lateral and medial.

Symptoms of lateral epicondylitis:

  • The pain is localized in the lateral epicondyle and extends to the back surface of the muscles of the forearm;
  • Acute pain that occurs during exercise, for example, after a workout, and increases with any load, even minimal (raising a cup of tea);
  • Restrictions of movements are not observed, but in the acute period, due to pain, patients can specifically spare the sore hand;
  • Signs of inflammation does not happen, if the elbow is swollen, then epicondylitis can be excluded.

The disease acquires a chronic progressive nature, while the pain syndrome increases, which leads to the inability of a person to perform usual actions and then go in for sports.

Medial epicondylitis

The disease is similar to lateral epicondylitis. Again, despite the name "golfer's elbow," medial epicondylitis is often seen in those who have nothing to do with golf. Characteristics: the pain is felt around the articular articulation and is especially strong on the inside.

Treatment may be prescribed in the form of:

  • NSAIDs (ibuprofen);
  • cortisone injections;
  • physiotherapy;
  • electrostimulation;
  • extracorporeal shock wave therapy;
  • iontophoresis;
  • load correction during vigorous activity.

Surgical treatment methods include the removal of dead tendon tissue and the "suture" of the tendon to another location.


Inflammation of the tendon in the place where it is attached to the joint. The pain reveals itself with some active movements, the same passive movements do not cause symptoms.

When feeling the damaged tendon, pain also appears. Above the zone of inflammation, the skin reddens and its temperature rises, and swelling appears. The crunch of a tendon is heard.


With the development of this disease, patients experience inflammation of the articular sac, which is located at the junction of the three bones of the elbow joint. The appearance of bursitis is often preceded by various injuries falling bruises, etc.

In the stage of active development of bursitis in a patient, a rounded neoplasm is visually determined, in the area of ​​the ulnar process, when exposed to which a person begins to experience pain.


When pain in a joint occurs, the best thing a person can do is to consult a doctor in order to find out the cause of the pain. Despite such a huge number of causes of pain in the elbow, the diagnosis in most cases is easy to make.

Already during the conversation with the patient, the doctor will make assumptions about the nature of the pathology, based on the data of the anamnesis (the circumstances of the occurrence of pain, etc.), the peculiarities of pain. Examination and palpation (palpation) will help to confirm the presence of a particular disease, injury.

Further examination will be scheduled based on the presumptive diagnosis:

  • x-ray examination;
  • puncture of the joint with cytological examination of punctate (assess the cellular composition of the fluid obtained);
  • Ultrasound of the joints;
  • arthroscopy (visualization of the joint cavity using a special endoscopic technique),
  • which complements the puncture of the joint;
  • computed and magnetic resonance imaging;
  • laboratory tests for suspected gout, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.

How to treat pain in the elbow joint will directly depend on the established diagnosis.

Treatment of pain in the elbow joint

Due to the fact that when referring to any of the specialists (traumatologist, rheumatologist or neurologist), patients experience severe pain, they are primarily assigned to:

  • painkillers;
  • corticosteroids;
  • modifiers and sleeping pills.

Tablets are often used for first aid, such as Bonifen, etc. Some patients do not tolerate oral medications, so they are prescribed ointments and gels that relieve pain well.

Another effective treatment for diseases of the elbow joints is physiotherapy. Electrophoresis, barotherapy, magnetotherapy, paraffin baths, ozocerite and mud wraps make it possible in the shortest possible time to stop the exacerbation of inflammatory diseases of the joints. Treatment procedures should be carried out by course, usually to improve the condition requires 10-12 sessions.

Watch the video: Common Reasons for Elbow Pain and Treatments (April 2020).


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