If you have elbow pain, one of several disorders could be the culprit.
Overuse and sports injuries cause many elbow conditions. Golfers, baseball
pitchers, tennis players, and boxers often have elbow disorders.
Elbow disorders may involve any of the following:
- arm muscles
- elbow ligaments
- bones in the arm
The treatments for elbow disorders depend on the underlying cause.
What are the different types of elbow disorders?
There are at least seven different types of elbow disorders.
Read on to learn about their symptoms and causes.
Medial epicondylitis affects the inner tendons in the elbow and is commonly
called golfer’s elbow and little leaguer’s elbow. The repetitive throwing
motion used in baseball and the downward swing of a golf club are common causes.
Medial epicondylitis can also be the result of a repetitive hand motion,
such as swinging a hammer every day at work. This disorder can cause pain along
the inside of the elbow. Wrist movements in particular can trigger pain. This
condition usually improves with rest and conventional treatment methods, such
the area or using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen
Another name for lateral epicondylitis is tennis elbow. It
affects the tendons on the outside of the elbow. Playing racquet sports or
working in certain professions that use the same sort of motion can cause this
condition. Professionals who commonly experience lateral epicondylitis include:
Symptoms such as pain or burning occur along the outside of the elbow. You
also may experience problems with gripping. These symptoms usually improve with
rest, physical therapy, or the use of a brace or tennis elbow strap.
Common names for olecranon bursitis are student’s elbow, miner’s elbow, and
draftsman’s elbow. Bursitis
affects bursae, small sacs of fluid that help protect the joints. Olecranon
bursitis affects the bursae protecting the pointy bone of the elbow. It may be
caused by a blow to the elbow, leaning on the elbow for a prolonged period of
time, infection, or medical conditions such as arthritis.
Symptoms include swelling,
pain, and difficulty moving the elbow. Redness and warmth may occur in
the case of an infection.
Medication and elbow pads treat this condition. Surgery may be necessary in
severe and chronic cases.
(OA) is a condition that affects the cartilage, a type of connective tissue
found in the joints. OA causes this tissue to wear down and become damaged. Elbow
OA may be caused by an elbow injury or wear and tear on the joints.
- difficulty bending the elbow
- a locking sensation in the elbow
- a grating sound during movement
OA is usually treated with medication and physical therapy. Surgery,
including joint replacement, is an option in more severe cases.
Dislocation or fracture of the elbow
An injury to the elbow, such as a fall on an outstretched arm or elbow, can
cause dislocation or
a fracture. Dislocation
occurs when a bone moves from its usual position, and a fracture happens when a
bone cracks or breaks.
A doctor can move the dislocated bone back into place. They’ll place the
dislocated or fractured elbow in a splint or cast and give you medication for
pain and swelling. Physical therapy helps restore the range of
motion after the splint or cast is removed.
Ligament strains and sprains
Ligament problems can occur in any of the ligaments located in the elbow
joint. Ligament sprains may be the result of trauma or repeated stress. The
ligament may be stretched, partially torn, or completely torn. Sometimes you’ll
hear a popping noise upon injury.
- joint instability
- problems with range of motion
Treatment may include:
- pain relief methods such as icing the area
- bracing the elbow
- physical therapy
Also called Panner’s disease, this condition occurs when small pieces of
cartilage and bone become dislodged in the elbow joint. It’s often the result
of a sports injury to the elbow and is most often seen in young men.
Pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow, trouble extending the arm,
and a feeling that the joint is locking could indicate this condition. You can
treat this injury by immobilizing the elbow joint and going to physical
How are elbow disorders diagnosed?
Your doctor can diagnose elbow disorders through:
How are elbow disorders treated?
Treatment varies depending on the elbow disorder and symptoms you
experience. Most elbow disorders require conservative treatment. Surgery is a
last resort if your symptoms don’t improve.
Your treatment options include:
How do you prevent elbow disorders?
Most elbow disorders are the result of overuse and injury. You can prevent
- correcting improper sport techniques
- using a proper-sized grip on sports equipment
- using proper tension on racquets
- warming up and stretching properly
- using elbow padding
It’s also important to take breaks from repetitive tasks. Practice exercises
that can help strengthen the muscles around your elbow joint. Talk to your
doctor for advice and recommendations.