Why Does My Elbow Hurt? Top Causes of Elbow Pain

Did you extend your arm recently to catch a closing door before it shut all the way, only to have a shooting pain jolt your elbow? Or did you try to pick up your grandchild and feel debilitating pain wrap around your elbow? No matter what you were doing when you experienced elbow pain, your first thought was likely, “Why is my elbow hurting so bad?”

Elbows are made up of several bones, ligaments, tendons, nerves, blood vessels, and cartilage — it’s little wonder that elbow pain can occur at any point in your life. With so many parts working as one to allow you to pull, lift, swing, throw, and twist, there are various ways the elbow can become overused or mistreated. Understanding the most common causes of elbow pain can help you determine which type of treatment you should seek.

Does your elbow hurt right now? It could be due to:

A Dislocation

Dislocated elbows occur when one of the bones making up this joint is knocked out of place. An elbow can become dislocated when you stretch out your arm to stop a fall or brace yourself in a car accident. It’s also a common athletic injury and may occur in children when they are lifted or swung by their arms (also known as “nursemaid’s elbow”). It is very painful and often identified by a deformity in your elbow joint. You should seek medical treatment from an orthopedic specialist right away to avoid permanent damage.

A Fracture

Have you recently been in a car accident, collided with someone in a contact sport, or slammed your elbow on a hard surface? You may have fractured one of the bones in your elbow. And just because you can still move your arm doesn’t mean it isn’t broken. If there’s pain, swelling, and/or deformity, it could be broken. Before you do anything else, have your elbow injury treated by a medical professional immediately.

Strains and Sprains

It’s almost impossible to do anything without using your elbows in some way. Unfortunately, this means these joints are susceptible to wear and tear. Strains and sprains occur when you push yourself a little too far. Repetitive motion is the most frequent cause of elbow pain.

What’s the difference between strains and sprains? If the muscles are stretched or torn, you have a strain. If the ligaments are affected, it’s a sprain. Both ailments can be treated with rest, ice, stretching, and strength exercises.

Tendonitis or Tennis Elbow

Another common cause of elbow pain from overuse is tendonitis. This condition is characterized by an inflammation of tendons. You may notice a shooting pain from your wrist to your elbow if you have tendonitis. It is also commonly described as leaving your elbow feeling tender or achy.

There are two main types of elbow tendonitis; tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow. Tennis elbow causes pain on the outside of your elbow and develops from repetitive twisting and rotating movements of the wrist and forearm. Golfer’s elbow, on the other hand, causes pain on the inside of the elbow and occurs after excessive wrist flexing or hand gripping.

If you suspect you have tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow, our specialists can help. In addition to providing treatment, we can also answer your most pressing questions, such as how to sleep with tennis elbow. Don’t suffer in pain any longer. Get relief from your pain ASAP.

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome or Radial Tunnel Syndrome

Your elbow is comprised of three major nerves: the median, ulnar, and radial nerves. When these nerves are compressed, they can cause elbow pain and result in conditions called cubital tunnel syndrome and radial tunnel syndrome. With cubital tunnel syndrome, the ulnar nerve has been squeezed for too long or too much, resulting in a burning sensation or numbness in the arm, wrist, hand, or fingers. With radial tunnel syndrome, the radial nerve has been compressed too much, and you may notice the outside of your forearm and elbow burns or feels numb.


Unfortunately, some of the most common types of arthritis can cause elbow pain. Rheumatoid arthritis, in particular, makes your elbows hurt because it deteriorates your body’s healthy tissue and causes your joints to swell. Osteoarthritis can also cause a flare-up of pain in the elbow since it breaks down cartilage, leaving the bones to rub together.

If you have arthritis in your elbows, physical therapy could be the treatment you need to find relief from your pain. It helps increase your range of motion and allows you to live comfortably.

Seek Elbow Pain Relief at Philadelphia Hand to Shoulder Center Today!

You don’t have to live your life according to the whims of your elbow pain. Philadelphia Hand to Shoulder Center can help you develop a treatment plan that gets your life back on track, from elbow surgery to physical therapy. Contact us today to set up an appointment with one of our specialists.

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