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Elbow Injuries From Overuse

Topic Overview

Many daily activities or sports activities require the arm to be used in a repeated movement. The repeated activity stresses the elbow joint and other tissues and may lead to irritation and inflammation. If this isn't treated and the overuse continues, small tears (microtears) and tissue damage (especially to tendons) may develop.

The following are examples of activities that may lead to an overuse injury.

  • Bowling may affect the radial nerve and cause biceps tendinopathy.
  • Boxing may cause triceps tendinopathy.
  • Football, wrestling, or basketball may cause olecranon bursitis.
  • Golf may cause golfer's elbow (medial epicondylitis).
  • Gymnastics may cause biceps or triceps tendinopathy.
  • Racquet sports may affect the radial and ulnar nerves and may cause triceps tendinopathy, tennis elbow, or golfer's elbow.
  • Rowing may affect the radial nerve.
  • Skiing may affect the ulnar nerve.
  • Swimming may affect the radial nerve.
  • Throwing affects the ulnar nerve and may cause triceps tendinopathy, golfer's elbow, or Little Leaguer's elbow in children.
  • Weight lifting affects the radial and ulnar nerve and may cause biceps or triceps tendinopathy.

Symptoms of an overuse injury may include:

  • A dull ache at the elbow that becomes worse with use of the affected tendon.
  • Pain extending down the forearm muscles.
  • Pain with lifting when the palm is facing down.
  • Pain with grasping and turning, such as opening a jar.
  • Pain with extension or flexion of the hand against resistance.
  • Pain when applying finger pressure to the tender spot on the elbow.

Related Information


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerH. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last RevisedDecember 19, 2011

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