Elbow Pain Quick Overview
- Elbow pain is any type of pain that comes from structures in the elbow joint and/or in structures adjacent to the elbow joint.
- The causes of elbow pain are numerous. Most elbow pain is due to overuse or strain on the elbow joint components, but some causes are due to trauma, infection, and/or autoimmune processes.
- Risk factors for elbow pain are numerous and range from engaging in repetitive activities and participation in sports to those associated with infection, trauma, and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Other adjacent structures associated with elbow pain include the shoulder, upper arm, forearm, and wrist and hand joints.
- Health-care professionals diagnose elbow pain mainly by a patient's history and physical exam. Radiologic techniques such as X-ray and MRI are often used to delineate the elbow structures involved.
- Treatment of elbow pain involves rest of the joint by reducing its motion and stress. Other treatments depend on the cause of the joint pain. Orthopedic consultation is often advised to design appropriate treatment protocols that may require casting and surgical intervention.
- Rest, ice packs, and compression of the elbow joint are commonly used home remedies. There are others, but before their use, discuss them with a physician.
- For most patients with elbow joint pain, if treated quickly and appropriately, the prognosis is very good. The prognosis decreases if the joint pain is allowed to become chronic or is due to an underlying process that may be progressive if not treated.
- It is possible to reduce or even prevent some instances of elbow pain (examples include the Little League pitching rules). For some other underlying causes, such as autoimmune disease, it is possible to reduce elbow pain but prevention is unlikely.
What Is Elbow Pain?
Elbow pain is a sharp, dull, burning, or pressure discomfort or pain that can be intermittent, constant, or shooting due to a strain, sprain, fracture, dislocation, infection, autoimmune condition, cancer, or trauma to the structures in and adjacent to the elbow joint. Although some causes of elbow pain may produce a predominance of one type of pain versus another, it is not unusual for patients to notice several types of pain. These elbow pain types are lumped together for the purpose of this article.
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