While elbow pain is generally not serious, it is quite uncomfortable because you use your elbow to do so many things. The elbow is where three long bones come together in the middle of the forearm to form a “hinge joint” that extends, flexes and rotates. Tendons are attached to this area and a friction reducing sac-or bursa, covers the tip of the elbow. Thus, your elbow helps you to flex and rotate your hands and forearm. These movements are part of so many activities that elbow pain can be troubling for patients throughout most of their daily routines as well as work, athletic activities and sports. Because your elbow is a complex joint and the elbow movements are a combination of extension and flexion, it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint and describe exactly which movement brings on the pain.
Elbow pain is often characterized as arm pain, arm muscle cramps, joint swelling and even a “funny bone” sensation from irritation of a nerve in the elbow that causes numbness and tingling in the forearm as well as little and ring fingers. Elbow pain usually increases with activities such as tennis and golf. Weight bearing on the elbow typically increases pain. Pain is often associated with loss of range of motion.
Elbow pain is often caused by overuse as many sports, hobbies and work tasks require repetitive hand, wrist or arm movements. In general elbow pain can be caused by inflammation of the tendons (“tendonitis”) or the bursa, or conditions that affect the bones or joints such as fractures or arthritis.