A tingling, vibrating numbness. A dull, burning ache. Intense, shooting pain whenever you move. When your elbow starts to hurt, everything from writing to stirring cream into your coffee can become painful and difficult to perform. And when you’re not sure what’s causing it, it’s natural to feel concerned.
The good news is, you can often care for elbow pain at home with rest, ice, and over-the-counter medication. But if your pain doesn’t go away or grows worse over time, it’s always a good idea to get it checked out for your safety and peace of mind. To help you find clarity and confidence, here are six common conditions that could be causing your discomfort—and some telltale symptoms you can look out for.
1. Strains and sprains
Muscle strains and ligament sprains can happen when you push your body a bit too far. If the box you’re lifting is extra heavy or you put some extra “oomph” behind the next pitch in a baseball game, your muscles and ligaments can overstretch and tear. The result: elbow soreness every time you lift your coffee mug, push the car door closed, or even just scratch your cheek.
2. Tennis or golfer’s elbow
You don’t have to be a world-class athlete, or even a dedicated amateur, to experience one of these common forms of tendinitis. They can crop up when any sort of repetitive motion (like raking leaves or putting a fresh coat of paint on the living room walls) causes the tendons in your elbow to swell. Tennis elbow leads to pain on the outside of the joint while golfer’s elbow affects the inside.
Say you’ve been working in the garden all morning and you start to feel a burning pain in your elbow. It could be bursitis, the swelling of small, fluid-filled sacs that help cushion your elbow joint as it moves. While most often caused by repetitive motion and overuse, bursitis can also develop after an accident or infection.
4. Trapped nerves
Sometimes, your nerves can slip out of position and get pinched. If you feel a burning or numbness in your fingers, hand, or arm, it could be because your ulnar nerve (one of the main nerves in your arm) is being squeezed in the tissue inside your elbow. Similar sensations on the outside of your arm could be a sign that your radial nerve is pressed in an uncomfortable position.
5. Stress fractures
Another common overuse injury, stress fractures are small cracks in your bones. While they’re more common in the lower legs and feet, continual pressure on the arm—like repetitive throwing or lifting motions—can cause stress fractures in the elbow joint as well. Your pain might be intense, especially if you try to make a throwing motion, and your elbow might continue to hurt even when you’re at rest.
There are many forms of arthritis, but the two that most commonly lead to elbow pain are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis happens when your immune system attacks healthy tissue and causes swelling in the joints. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage in your joints wears down and your bones start rubbing together, leading to pain and stiffness.
Whatever the cause of your elbow pain, if it hangs around for too long, you may want to explore alternative treatment options. Stem cell therapy has helped many patients living with elbow pain find long-lasting relief. To learn more about this minimally invasive treatment option, contact us today.