Common Causes of Elbow Pain

There are many causes of elbow pain. The elbow is used for many tasks, and it is highly susceptible to repetitive use injuries. However, infections, trauma or chronic conditions can also affect the elbow and cause pain.

Irritation of the tendons in the elbow is a common cause of pain. Inflammation of tendons in the outside or inside of the elbow are often termed “tennis elbow” and “golfer’s elbow,” respectively. Although these types of injuries reference a specific sport, they can occur from any activity that requires repetitive use of the elbow. Inflammation of the fluid surrounding the elbow, bursitis, can cause pain. Bursitis can be a result of injuries from overuse or injury.

Sudden trauma to the elbow, resulting from an accident, fall or sports injury, can cause problems such as sprains, dislocation or a broken bone. Sprains occur when the ligaments in the elbow are damaged or torn. More severe and abrupt injuries to the elbow may cause the bones in the upper and lower arm to separate at the elbow joint, a dislocation. Broken bones can occur within or near the elbow. Dislocation and breaks require medical attention from a bone specialist, or orthopedic surgeon, because surgical intervention is often required to properly repair the elbow.

Chronic conditions can also cause elbow pain. The most common type of arthritis, osteoarthritis, can affect the elbow. This type of arthritis is caused by wear and tear of the joint. Severe cases of osteoarthritis may require joint reconstruction or replacement. Inflammatory arthritis is a group of conditions that are autoimmune and affect the joints, as well as other organs. Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis are two types of inflammatory arthritis that commonly affect the elbow. Individuals who have some types of inflammatory arthritis can experience shoulder pain and pain in other joints in the body.

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