Elbow Pain

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Elbow pain can be caused by a variety of problems. A common cause in adults is tendinitis, an inflammation and injury to the tendons – soft tissues that attach muscle to bone.

People who play racquet sports are most likely to injure the tendons on the outside of the elbow. This condition is commonly called tennis elbow. Golfers are more likely to injure the tendons on the inside of the elbow.

Other common causes of elbow tendinitis are gardening, playing baseball, using a screwdriver, or overusing your wrist and arm.

Young children commonly develop "nursemaid's elbow," usually when someone is pulling on their straightened arm. The bones are stretched apart momentarily and a ligament slips in between, where it becomes trapped when the bones try to snap back into place. Children will usually quietly refuse to use the arm, but often cry out with any attempt to bend or straighten the elbow. This condition is also called an elbow subluxation (a partial dislocation).

Other common causes of elbow pain are:

  • Bursitis – inflammation of a fluid-filled cushion beneath the skin
  • Arthritis – narrowing of the joint space and loss of cartilage in the elbow
  • Elbow strains
  • Infection of the elbow


Call your doctor or nurse if:

  • You have a prolonged case of tendinitis that doesn't improve with home care.
  • The pain is due to a direct elbow injury.
  • There is obvious deformity.
  • You are unable to use the elbow.
  • You have fever or swelling or/and redness of your elbow.
  • Your elbow is locked.
  • A child has elbow pain.

Treatment depends on the cause, but may involve:

  • Pain medicine
  • Corticosteroid shots
  • Elbow splints or straps
  • Physical therapy
  • Antibiotics
  • Surgery (last resort)
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