Arm & Elbow Pain

Below we outline some of the more common causes of elbow pain. Use the links on the left to view all elbow injuries.

If you are not sure what your injury is then try our symptom checker.

We have separated injuries into inside of the elbow, outside of the elbow, back of the elbow, acute injuries, forearm pain and upper arm injuries.

Outside of the elbow

Tennis elbow - probably the most common cause of pain on the outside of the elbow. Pain is felt over the bony bit on the outside of the elbow. The patient will have difficulty gripping things.

Radial tunnel syndrome or entrapment of the radial nerve is when a nerve that passes through the elbow into the forearm becomes restricted or trapped by the tunnel it passes thorough. Symptoms are similar to that of tennis elbow.

Referred pain is where an injury or problem elsewhere in the body causes pain on the outside of the elbow.

Inside of the elbow

Golfer's elbow is inflammation or degeneration of the tendons which attach to the bony part on the inside of the elbow. It is similar to tennis elbow.

Medial elbow ligament sprain is a sprain or tear to the medial collateral ligament on the inside of the elbow. This can be acute or chronic. An acute injury is one caused by a sudden trauma, impact or twisting of the elbow.

Ulnar nerve compression is compression to the ulna nerve which runs down the inside of the elbow. This is usually caused by direct impact or trauma which compresses the nerve. This is commonly referred to as hitting your funny bone!

Back of the elbow

Students elbow or olecranon bursitis as it is known is inflammation of the bursa at the back of the elbow. A bursa is a small sack of fluid which sits between a tendon and the bone in order to protect the tendon and help lubricate movement.

Triceps tendinitis or triceps tendinopathy which is probably a more accurate term to describe pain resulting from inflammation or degeneration of the triceps tendon as it inserts into the back of the elbow.

Posterior impingement is when small pieces of bone grow in the joint preventing a full range or normal movement. This can occur in children who repeatedly over straighten (or hyper-extend) their elbow joints.

Acute elbow injuries

Broken elbow or fractured elbow is a serious traumatic injury and needs urgent medial assistance. If the fractured bones have not moved more than 2mm apart then the fracture is usually treated with a plaster cast followed by a splint and rehabilitation program.

Dislocated elbow or to be more specific a posterior dislocation of the elbow is when the forearm bone or ulna dislocates backwards out of the joint.

Medial ligament sprain is an acute rupture, sprain or tear of the medial colateral ligament (MCL) on the inside of the elbow.

Ulnar nerve compression is compression to the ulna nerve which runs down the inside of the elbow. This is usually caused by an impact which compresses the nerve and is commonly referred to as hitting your funny bone!

Forearm injuries

Radius fracture is a break to the radius bone on the inside or thumb side of the forearm.

Ulna fracture is a break of the larger ulna bone on the little or pinky finger side of the forearm.

Stress fracture of the forearm is a hairline crack or break in either of the forearm bones and is rare although may occur in sports where repetitive strain or overloading of the forearm muscles happens such as baseball, swimming or racket sports.

Compartment syndrome is where the pressure inside a muscle compartment increases. Symptoms include pain and aching in the forearm which comes on during exercise and goes away after a period of rest.

Forearm splints are similar to shin splints (or periostitis) in that the periostium or sheath surround the the bone becomes inflamed due to repeated trauma from the tendons which attach to the bone.

Upper arm pain

Humerus fracture is a fracture of the humerus or upper arm bone caused by a traumatic impact or fall onto the arm.

Biceps contusion is caused by a direct blow or impact to the biceps muscle (can occur to triceps muscle at the back of the arm as well). The muscle is crushed against the bone underneath causing damage and bleeding in the muscle.

Myofascial pain is pain from the fascia or sheath that surrounds a muscle. Tiny localized knots called trigger points in the muscle can also be a source of pain and discomfort. Symptoms of myofascial pain are a vague, dull ache in the upper arm area that is difficult to pinpoint.

Stress fracture of the humerus is a hairline crack or fracture in the humerus bone in the upper arm. It is most likely to occur in adolescents who have had a sudden increase in training and are involved in activities which put stress on the arm such as baseball, javelin throwing and weight lifting.

Triceps strain is a tear or strain of the triceps muscle at the back of the upper arm.

Axillary nerve injury can also occur as a result of a direct blow to the arm. Symptoms include numbness of the deltoid or shoulder muscle on the outside of the arm.

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