Pain in the elbow joint Why does it appear Causes and treatment

Pain in the elbow joint gives a lot of discomfort when moving and at rest. The cause is trauma or pathology of the tissues of the joint. After the diagnosis is clarified, a treatment consisting of drugs, physiotherapy, massage and folk remedies is prescribed. Pain of a different nature can disturb a person once or cause inconvenience by a constant presence. The response appears after mechanical damage or a developed disease due to the specifics of professional or sports activities. Complex treatment, selected taking into account the causes of the pathological condition, will relieve the unpleasant symptom.

Why does elbow pain appear?

The elbow joint connects three bones: the humerus, the elbow and the radial. In a joint capsule, they form three simple joints, making the structure of the elbow joint difficult. In the variety of movements that can be performed with the hand with the participation of the elbow, four ligaments are involved. Innervation is provided by large nerve trunks passing through a mobile connection.

Any deviation that changes the structure or physiology of the elbow is reflected by painful sensations, the increase in strength of which directly depends on the progressing processes. Inflammatory tissues or the inner membrane in addition to pain is accompanied by characteristic signs: swelling, redness, local increase in body temperature.

Elbow injury occurs quite often. Even a small blow with a bent arm causes an unpleasant sharp pain in the elbow joint. This is explained by the closely located ulnar nerve. Serious injuries deprive the arm of working capacity and require long-term treatment.

Disease description

A pain symptom is present in every pathology associated with the elbow joint. With the help of the emerging syndrome, the body signals a developing disease:

  • Arthrosis The processes that destroy cartilage tissue develop after an injury or due to age. The lack of chemical compounds that maintain cells in optimal condition leads to irreversible changes and deformation of the elbow joint. The elbow begins to hurt after the cartilage gasket becomes thinner, ceasing to fulfill the function of a shock absorber. The upper layer of the bone changes its structure to a denser one, forming osteophytes. They are an additional source of pain during movement. Pathology often affects older people or after receiving injuries during an injury.
  • Arthritis. Inflammation in the joint is manifested by acute aching pain. The causative agents are infectious diseases, microdamages after bruises, malfunctions of the immune system. Pathology is accompanied by swelling of the elbow joint, redness over the inflamed area. On palpation, the skin is hot, movements in the joint are sharply limited.
  • Epicondylitis The connective tissue of the ligaments becomes inflamed, which causes sharp pain when trying to make a movement in the joint. The main reason is physical activity, weight lifting, the same type of movement during work or sports exercises.
  • Reactive arthritis. It develops as a complication after infections or viral pathologies. In addition to inflammation and pain in the elbow joint, there is a decrease in vision, disruption of the gastrointestinal tract, dry skin with peeling on the feet, severe swelling of the toes.
  • Osteochondrosis. Significant degenerative changes in the intervertebral discs and segments of the cervical region are manifested by pain that radiates to the upper limb. At the same time, the elbows hurt at rest, even without performing passive movements.
  • Bursitis. A painful reaction to inflammation in the synovial bag near the elbow joint is accompanied by hyperemia and the formation of an oblong seal on the bend of the arm.
  • Tendonitis. The development of dystrophic and inflammatory processes in the tendons. The disease provokes injuries, infectious and degenerative processes, impaired metabolism and immune processes.
  • Shulman’s disease. Or diffuse eosinophilic fasciitis. A rare disease involving fascia, muscle fibers, subcutaneous tissue, pain in the elbow joint and immobility in the pathological process.
  • Chondromatosis Pathology of unknown etiology develops in large joints. Pathogenesis is the formation of cartilage elements on the surface of the synovial membrane
  • Chondrocalcinosis. Deposits of calcium salts in the cartilage of the elbow joint. The main symptoms of the disease: elbow pain, swelling, impaired motor function.
  • Gout is a pathology with excess uric ac >


  • dislocation – the displacement of the head of the bone in the joint while maintaining integrity or with damage to the joint capsule;
  • subluxation – happens in childhood with a sharp movement of the arm up;
  • bruise – mechanical damage due to impact without damage to the skin;
  • sprain – complete or partial rupture of the ligament at the time of a sharp movement;
  • fracture – damage to the bone simultaneously with the nervous and circulatory system;
  • Volkman’s ischemic contracture is a complication after pathological conditions associated with acute circulatory disturbance in the elbow, severe pain appears, the arm cannot be straightened due to the formation of adhesions on the connective tissue.

Frequent execution of movements along one trajectory with a load that exceeds the strength of daily stress.

Lifting weights to chest level and above causes severe tension, which leads to pain.


Pain in the elbow joint varies in nature and occurrence:

  • the appearance of a symptom when bending the arm indicates the destruction of the joint with cartilage dystrophy, ligament and tendon injury, inflammatory diseases;
  • extension movement brings pain with arthrosis, arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis, as well as osteochondrosis with the formation of intervertebral hernias and protrusions, epicondylitis;
  • from the junction of the radius and the humerus – with injuries and medial epicondylitis;
  • it is painful to squeeze a hand into a fist – a person has a serious injury or neurological problems;
  • when lifting a small load, the elbows hurt – you can suspect ulnar inflammation;
  • constant aching pain in the elbow joint with diseases of the internal organs, severe stages of arthrosis, osteochondrosis.

Pain in the elbow joint may be aggravated by the following symptoms:

    accumulation of body flu >

Diagnosis of pain in the elbow joint

To eliminate the pain in the elbow joint, you need to establish the exact cause.

Only a medical specialist can conduct a full examination:

  1. Medical history: the doctor finds out complaints, heredity, past illnesses, whether there were previous injuries of the elbow.
  2. Specialized tests to determine the degree of joint mobility and soreness.
  3. Laboratory blood test for inflammation and rheumatoid factor.
  4. X-ray, if there is a suspicion of trauma or tissue degeneration.
  5. Computed tomography to clarify the oncological diagnosis or osteochondrosis.
  6. Arthroscopy of the joint to form a complete picture of the pathology.
  7. Taking synovial fluid for bacteriological analysis to identify the pathogen to prescribe effective treatment.
  8. An electrocardiogram to evaluate the functioning of the cardiovascular system.
  9. Ultrasound examination of the joint or internal organs;
  10. Consultation of a neurologist, rheumatologist.

Therapeutic measures

It is possible to achieve a stable therapeutic effect when making the correct diagnosis and observing exactly the recommendations for treatment. For each pathology, the treatment of pain will be different. The drug “first aid” can be considered non-narcotic analgesics. Baralgin Pentalgin, Tempalgin will eliminate soreness for a short period, after a while the symptoms will appear again, consult a specialist before taking medications.

  1. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs will relieve inflammation and pain in any diseases of the elbow. Ketaprofen, Indomethacin, Ibuprofen is also prescribed for febrile conditions to reduce body temperature. Taking the drug regularly, you can not exceed the dosage so as not to irritate the gastric mucosa. For protection at the same time, it is recommended to take Ameprozole, Pantoprazole.
  2. Glucocorticosteroids are used for severe inflammation. Steroid hormones (prednisone, hydrocortisone) are injected into the joint, acting directly on the focus of inflammation.
  3. Chondroprotectors for stopping degenerative processes and self-healing of cartilage. Don, Arthra, Structum contain glucosamine and chondroitin – the “building material” of joint cells. Medications are for long-term use. Treatment can be carried out by intraarticular injection.
  4. Diuretic drugs to remove excess fluid. Furosemide, Lasix, Diuver – eliminate local and general edema and alleviate the condition in cardiac and renal pathologies.
  5. Colchicine is a highly targeted herbal remedy used to relieve an attack of gout. To enhance the therapeutic effect, Allopurinol is prescribed, which negatively affects the synthesis of uric acid.
  6. Muscle relaxants (Midokalm, Sirdalud) will eliminate muscle cramps that affect pain. For a stable result, it is necessary to simultaneously pierce the vitamins of group B (Milgamma, Combilipen).
  7. With purulent lesions – antibiotic therapy. Amoxiclav, Azithromycin, Cephalexin have an antibacterial effect, destroying the pathogen. At the time of taking the antibiotic, a probiotic (Linex, Normobact, Bifidumbacterin) is prescribed to maintain good microflora of the stomach.
  8. Vasodilators (Papaverine, No-spa) increase the lumen of blood vessels, improving blood circulation.
  9. Sedatives (Novopassit, Tenoten, Persen) for mental disorders during illness.
  10. Local anesthesia with ointments and gels for external use: Voltaren, Dolobene, Nise. Exposure directly to the affected area helps to conduct anesthesia faster than in tablet form.

First aid for trauma

In case of mechanical injuries of the elbow due to impact or falling, it is necessary to conduct a series of manipulations in a timely manner before the victim gets to the trauma center. The correctness of the action often depends on how long the patient will recover the sore arm.

The most important rule: to provide immobility to the arm so that the injured limb is at rest. This can be achieved using a homemade tire from improvised materials. If an unnatural position of the hand is observed, it is impossible to straighten it by force. The hand should be left in the same position.

In the first minutes after the injury, apply ice or a cold object to the elbow. You can hold it for no more than 15 minutes, after wrapping it with a thin cloth so as not to overcool the damaged joint. To relieve pain – Ketorol, Naproxen, Nimesil. It is convenient to use the Frost cooling spray, which is sprayed onto the elbow and instantly anesthetizes it.

In the future, it is necessary to be examined by a traumatologist for the absence of a fracture or damage to the internal organ.

Physiotherapeutic procedures for pain in the elbow joint

Supporting methods will help to fully restore the amplitude of motion and accelerate recovery. To unload the joint during the period of the disease, orthopedic bandages are prescribed to fix the joint of varying degrees of stiffness, depending on the severity of the pathology.

Electrophoresis, combined with Dimexidum, delivers the drug into the deeper layers directly to the affected tissues. Magnetotherapy acts by pulsed electro-magnetic current, not only heals, but also restores the elbow joint. The cumulative effect after the sessions lasts for several months.

It is useful to use mud baths or paraffin wraps. The diseased area is saturated with chemical elements, absorbing them through the skin. Shock-wave therapy acts by acoustic waves directly on the joint.

If fluid or blood accumulates in the joint or synovial bag, a joint puncture is performed to pump out the contents. After that, a medicine is introduced into the cavity to relieve the inflammatory process – glucocorticoids (Hydrocortisone, Diprospan).

Massage therapy courses are carried out at a stage when there are no symptoms of an acute condition. After the session, blood supply and tissue nutrition improves, metabolic reactions are stimulated, and motor function improves. For preventive purposes, massage is carried out twice a year, at least ten sessions.

In order for the rehabilitation exercises to bring the desired effect, when performing the complex, some rules must be observed:

  • Before doing the main part, do a warm-up to increase blood flow and warm up the muscles.
  • Exercises are performed on an empty stomach, therefore, between eating and occupation should be at least 1,5 hours.
  • Drink clean water at least 2 liters per day.
  • At the end of the session, the hand is washed with cool water and rubbed with a towel.

Exact adherence to the recommendations and techniques for the exercise of physiotherapy exercises will significantly increase the amplitude of movement even after severe conditions. Classes should be regular, single cases of fulfillment do not live up to expectations.

Exercises for pain in the elbow joint:

  1. Slowly and smoothly perform flexion and extension in the elbow joint, with the brush pointing up.
  2. For the next exercise you will need a massage ball measuring 7 cm in diameter. Roll the ball with his hand on the table clockwise.
  3. Put your hand on the table with the inner surface. Bend your hand while holding it across the table.
  4. Join hands in front of you and bend, attracting to the chest.
  5. Take a small diameter stick and roll it on the table with both hands. The movement is reminiscent of rolling dough.
  6. In the standing position, straightened arms should be lifted up and bent, leading behind the head.

Each exercise is performed 8-10 times with each hand without jerking and sudden movements. If pain occurs, immediately stop the session and inform your doctor.

  1. Propolis ointment will relieve inflammation and have an antibacterial effect. For cooking, you need to take 70 g of propolis and the same amount of sunflower oil. Combine in a bowl and heat in a water bath until dissolved, then cool and rub in a sore elbow 2 times a day.
  2. Anesthetic and decongestant effect has honey. Apply liberally to the elbow and rub in with light massage movements for 10 minutes. If necessary, you can put a film on top and wrap it with a blanket, leave it all night.
  3. A compress using blue clay will provide the necessary chemical elements to a sore joint. The powder is laid out in a bowl and diluted with cool water until the consistency of thick dough. Put the resulting mass on cheesecloth and wrap the joint. Leave the compress for 2 hours.
  4. Grind the eggshell in a coffee grinder to a powder state. Mix yogurt with shell to the density of sour cream. Use for a compress, treatment time – 4 hours.
  5. Wash the cabbage leaf and slightly beat off with a rolling pin to make the juice appear. Wrap the elbow, secure with cling film, cover with a warm blanket and leave for 10 hours.
  6. Grate raw potatoes, spread over the joint and wrap with cellophane. An analgesic compress can be left overnight.
  7. Combine camphor alcohol with beaten egg white, then add dry mustard powder to the consistency of the ointment. Spread the healing mixture on the joint, cover with a film and a warm handkerchief.
  8. A warm bath with sea salt has a beneficial effect on the elimination of pain in the elbow joint. The procedure lasts 15 minutes, after which the hand must be washed and lubricated with a moisturizer.

Elbow joint prophylaxis

Joint health is indispensable for normal life. Daily manipulations of self-care require the normal functioning of not only the fingers, but also the elbow joint. To ensure free movement in the joint, it is necessary to follow the recommendations for prevention:

  • proper nutrition with a restriction of fatty, salted and smoked dishes, the inclusion of vegetables and fruits, low-fat meat and dairy products in the diet is welcome;
  • put on orthoses to prevent injuries and diseases with increased load on the joint;
  • It is contraindicated to rely on the elbow for a long time;
  • do gymnastics to strengthen muscles and ligaments, after injuries and during heavy physical work;
  • avoid prolonged exposure to cold air;
  • for unpleasant sensations during movement, loss of sensitivity and ability to move your hand, seek the advice of a medical specialist.
Shishkevich Vladimir, orthopedic and traumatologistShishkevich Vladimir, orthopedic and traumatologist, project editor-in-chief ExpertNews.

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