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.
Tennis Elbow is a general term used to describe pain on the outside of the elbow. The most common causes is inflammation or degeneration of the tendon of the wrist extensor muscles as they insert into the elbow. It is also known as lateral epicondylitis or extensor tendinopathy. Despite it's name, this condition is not only seen in tennis players but is also seen in other sports or recreational activities that involve repetitive stress on the muscles around the elbow, such as heavy lifting or decorating. Read more on Tennis elbow treatment and rehabilitation.
Radial Tunnel Syndrome
Radial tunnel syndrome or radial nerve entrapment as it is sometimes called is when the radial nerve gets compressed or restricted in the tunnel it passes through. The symptoms of radial nerve entrapment are very similar to those of tennis elbow and so it can be difficult to determine which of these conditions is causing the elbow pain. Read more on radial tunnel syndrome treatment and rehabilitation.
View all injuries causing pain on the outside of the elbow.
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.
Golfer's elbow or medial epicondylitis is an overuse injury similar to tennis elbow (on the outside of the arm) but causing pain on the inside of the elbow instead. It is sometimes known as throwers elbow or little league elbow. We explain the symptoms, causes and treatment to return you back to full fitness in the shortest time. Read more on Golfer's elbow treatment and rehabilitation.
Medial Elbow Ligament Sprain
Medial elbow ligament sprain is a tear to the medial collateral ligament (MCL) on the inside of the elbow and can occur suddenly through an impact or accident or can also occur from repetitive overuse, for example throwing with poor technique. Symptoms include pain and tenderness on the inside of the elbow with possible swelling. Read more on medial elbow ligament sprain treatment.
Biceps tendonitis results in pain and inflammation of the biceps tendon as it inserts into the inside of the elbow. Symptoms include a thickening and redness over the biceps tendon with pain or discomfort on the front and inside of the elbow especially when writing. Read more on Biceps tendonitis causes and treatment.
Apohysitis of the elbow is a condition affecting children and adolescents and is a crumbling of the bone at the point the tendon attaches to. It is usually something children will grow out of by the age of 16 or 17 although the condition does need to be managed properly with plenty of rest.
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.
Elbow Bursitis - Students Elbow
Elbow bursitis also known as Students elbow or Olecranon bursitis is the inflammation and swelling of the bursa which protects the bone at the back of the elbow. Traumatic or repetitive impacts to this area can result in pain and a large swelling at the back of the joint as the bursa swells up.Read more on Student's elbow treatment.
The olecranon process the the large bony prominence at the back of the elbow on the ulna forearm bone. It is usually fractured from a direct impact or fall onto a bent elbow. Sudden intense pain at the back of the elbow will be felt at the time of injury. The patient will in most cases be unable to straighten the elbow. Read more on symptoms and treatment of an olecranon fracture.
Triceps Tendon Inflammation
The triceps tendon at the back of the upper arm inserts into the elbow. Injury can occur to the tendon from sudden impact such as a fall or over use. Symptoms include pain at the back of the elbow at rest and during exercise. It will be tender to touch pressing in just above the back of the elbow. Read more on triceps tendon inflammation treatment.
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.
Median nerve injury
Injury to the median nerve at the elbow may cause symptoms to appear in the forearm, wrist and hand. An injury above the elbow may result in difficulty or even inability to turn the hand over or flex the wrist down. Injuries below this may cause tingling or numbness in the forearm, thumb and the three adjacent fingers. Read more on median nerve injury treatment.
Forearm splints is similar to shin splints in the lower leg, although far less common. It comes on gradually occurring in those who repetitively use their wrist, contracting the forearm muscles. Symptoms consist of a dull pain in the forearm. Pain is minor initially but increases as activity continues. Often pin-pointed to the dorsal or back of the hand side of the forearm, mid-way between the wrist and elbow. Read more on causes and treatment of forearm splints.
Radius Fracture (Broken Forearm)
A broken forearm is usually a fracture to the radius bone, although may be a fracture of the ulna, or even both. The radius is more frequently injured than the ulna because of it is weight bearing. Read more on radius fracture treatment and rehabilitation.
View all injuries causing pain in the forearm.
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.