In most cases, elbow pain occurs due to injury occurring from misuse or overuse. These injuries can be as minor as strains (tearing a muscle) and sprains (tearing a ligament) or as major as fractured elbows.
Whatever the case may be, these one-time injuries will often occur with some lingering pain. If one gets proper treatment and enough rest, the pain should gradually disappear.
A strain is what happens when someone tears a muscle. When it’s a ligament that’s torn, it’s called a sprain.
One can usually tell sprains/strains by their common symptoms — pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty using the elbow. The patient may also experience muscle spasms and cramping.
When these things happen, the pain often goes away after a period of 2 days to 2 weeks. However, if the pain lasts beyond 2 weeks or becomes unmanageably painful, it’s very important to see a doctor immediately.
When one of the bones which form the elbow gets knocked out of place, that’s called a dislocated elbow.
Dislocated elbows can occur in fall accidents, motor vehicle accidents, or in children when adults lift/swing them by their arms.
If someone experiences extreme pain or if there is obvious distortion of the elbow joint, seek immediate medical attention.
When one of the bones which form the elbow break, that’s called a fractured elbow.
Fractured elbows can occur due to sudden blows, like in contact sports, car accidents, or fall accidents.
These are very dangerous if left untreated, so they should be treated immediately to prevent infection.
Over time, as one uses (or misuses) their elbow, damage forms gradually on a microscopic scale.
Examples of elbow misuse are:
- Too many repetitive movements
- Awkwardly orienting the arms while doing everyday work
- Prolonged lifting, gripping, or pinching
If one isn’t careful, any of these actions could lead to a number of wear-and-tear injuries such as tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, bursitis, cubital tunnel syndrome, and more.
Without consistent maintenance treatments (such as shockwave therapy), this wear and tear can take a toll on the elbow. It can cause not only short-term elbow pain but also other long-term effects which may lead to even more pain.
A number of diseases (with varying degrees of pain) are known to cause elbow pain, such as:
For many of these diseases, elbow pain is an early symptom which can help the patient detect their presence before their symptoms worsen.
They usually manifest other symptoms as well, which allows a more accurate diagnosis of the problem.
If symptoms point to a severe disease like the ones listed above, seek immediate medical attention.