Arm & Elbow Pain
Arm and elbow injuries are separated into lateral elbow pain (outside of the elbow), medial elbow pain (inside of the elbow) posterior elbow pain (at the back of the elbow), acute elbow injuries (sudden onset), forearm pain and upper arm injuries. Tennis elbow is the most common cause of pain on the outside of the elbow. Here we explain how to recognise and treat elbow and arm injuries as well as when to seek medical advice.
The majority of arm and elbow injuries, especially the minor ones, can be treated at home. However, if you have any of the following symptoms you should seek further medical assistance.
All acute and chronic injuries should be treated using the P.R.I.C.E. therapy principle. This should be applied at home for at least the first 2 - 3 days. P.R.I.C.E. stands for Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
The most common term for pain on the outside of the elbow is Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis). However, there are a number of other causes of lateral elbow pain which should be considered as well as acute elbow injuries such as ligament sprains and fractures. Other potential causes of pain on the outside of the elbow include referred pain, radial tunnel syndrome, synovitis, bursitis and osteochondritis dissecans.
A medial elbow is a pain on the inside of the elbow. It usually comes on gradually through overuse but can also be an acute injury, especially when throwing. Golfer's elbow or throwers elbow is probably the most common name given to pain on the inside of the elbow and refers to inflammation or degeneration of the flexor tendon. Other causes include sprains (ligament tears), nerve compression, avulsion fractures apophysitis and pain referred from the upper back or shoulder.
Posterior elbow pain is pain at the back of the elbow and can be acute, meaning sudden onset or can come on gradually over time. A chronic elbow injury may occur following an acute injury which was not treated properly or has failed to heal.
Acute elbow injuries are of sudden onset and caused by a sudden impact or trauma. They include bone fractures, elbow dislocations, ligament sprains and tendon ruptures and are usually caused by a fall onto the arm or elbow or a collision in contact sports.
Pain in the forearm can be sudden onset (acute) and include fractures of either the radius or ulna bones. Gradual onset of pain in the forearm can be caused by nerve impingements or from overuse of the wrist. Or from referred pain higher up the arm or shoulder.
The most common injury in the upper arm is a broken bone (fractured humerus), however, strains to the triceps and biceps muscles can also occur.