What is Causing My Elbow Pain? How Can We Treat it?

April 5, 2019

What is Causing My Elbow Pain? How Can We Treat it?

The four most common elbow conditions that we see in our clinic include tennis elbow, olecranon bursitis, elbow arthritis and cubital tunnel syndrome.

Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow is a condition affecting the outside of the elbow where the tendons that help control the wrist get inflamed and irritated. It can be caused by activities such as tennis or other racquetball-type sports, but also is commonly caused from overuse.

Treatment options for tennis elbow are usually conservative. We start by using anti-inflammatories, rest, ice, modifying our activities, and usually physical therapy. If the conservative treatments do not help, then commonly the next step is an ultrasound-guided injection. The injection is done right around the tendons that are inflamed and irritated. Sometimes, in rare cases, we do surgery to clean out the inflamed tendons.

Inflammation on the Back of the Elbow

Olecranon bursitis is where the bursa on the posterior or back of the elbow gets inflamed and sometimes can be infected. It will be red, swollen, warm and pretty painful.

Bursitis of the elbow is usually treated with conservative measures such as rest, ice, compression and modifying your activities. Occasionally we have to put a needle in there to drain the fluid out. In some cases, where there would be infection in the bursa, we actually have to do surgery to wash out all of the infection.

Elbow Arthritis

Elbow arthritis is wear and tear of the elbow joint. The cartilage starts to wear away and then your bones can rub together.

Treatment options for elbow arthritis usually include conservative measures such as NSAIDs or anti-inflammatories, and steroid injections into the elbow joint. Sometimes, if your arthritis is bad enough, we do surgery to clean out any loose bodies, or sometimes even elbow replacement.

Numbness or Tingling in the Hands

Cubital tunnel syndrome is a disorder of the elbow that actually does not cause pain of the elbow. It’s where your ulnar nerve, (one of the three biggest nerves in your arm) gets trapped or compressed at the elbow and causes numbness and tingling in your hand. It usually causes numbness in the small finger and half of the ring finger.

Treatment options for cubital tunnel are usually physical therapy to help desensitize or stretch out that nerve, and if that does not work, we usually talk about surgery to actually surgically decompress the nerve at the elbow so that your symptoms go away.

If you have any symptoms of your elbow that are not going away with conservative measures at home, then it’s usually a great time to come see an orthopedic specialist.

Wondering if it’s time to see an orthopedic specialist? Take our joint pain risk assessment.

Ready to make an appointment? Visit CHIhealth.com/Ortho to find a provider near you.

  1. Dr. David Greene R3 Stem Cell

    Amazing article for the person who is facing the problems related to the elbow, who so ever want now the main cause of the problem can read and get the answer from this article. In my view, one of the better articles is in the form of information.

  2. Max Russell

    Great article Jennie! Agree with you about physical therapy being among the best treatment options for tennis elbow. Physical therapy increases flexibility and strength in the forearm muscles.

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