Bones of the upper arm and forearm meet in the elbow making the structure of the elbow joint quite complicated. The long bones humerus, ulna and radius come together at the elbow. The hinge joint allows you to rotate your forearm. The muscles, ligaments and the tendons which join muscles to the bones are main parts of the joint. The fluid in the joint and the fluid-filled sacs (bursae) help reduce the friction during any movement.
Sharp pain in elbow is noticed when any one or more parts of the joint like bones, muscles, ligaments, tissues, tendons, nerves, blood vessels, etc., are hurt. The ulnar nerve which runs down the back of the elbow is known as 'funny bone'. You notice severe pain and a tingly, prickly feeling whenever this highly sensitive ulnar nerve is bumped. The pain generally goes away on its own.
In case of serious injuries, swelling, numbness, tingling, weakness or decreased range of elbow motion is noticed. Simple home remedies are sufficient to treat minor injuries. For major injuries, you should consult an orthopedic surgeon.
Elbow Pain Causes
- Tennis elbow is one of the main and common causes of sore elbow for sports personalities. Gardeners, carpenters, industrial workers can have a tennis elbow. Due to excessive exertion, when the outer part of the elbow becomes sore and tender, it is called a tennis elbow. It is also known as lateral epicondylitis. It is a long-lasting condition.
- Excessive weightlifting can be one of the reasons behind tender elbows. Wrong techniques, wrong posture of hands while exercising, can cause injuries to elbows.
- A person having arthritis may often complain about pain in the elbows, as arthritis causes joint pain and muscle pain. Arthritis results in the restricted movement of the elbow joint and the joint may become stiff. Such condition is common in the elderly.
- Accumulation of blood and serous fluid in the subcutaneous structure or overuse of the elbow joint leading to its injury can result in inflammation of the connective tissue called 'bursa'. This situation is known as olecranon bursitis, which results in an acute pain at the tip of the elbow, which increases with the movement of the elbow.
- An infection can cause pain, redness, swelling, fever, pus in the elbow, leading to sore elbow. People who inject illegal drugs into the veins of their arms often suffer from infections. Swollen lymph nodes in the arm pit can lead to tender elbow.
- Chronic wrist flexion leads to medial epicondylitis or golfer's elbow, resulting in an inflammation in the forearm flexor muscles and the pronator teres tendon.
- Recurrent flexion of the biceps muscle leads to inflammation of the biceps muscle causing pain in the anterior region of the elbow. This is known as biceps tendinitis.
- Pulled muscles (strains), injuries to joints or tendons (sprains), can stretch or tear the ligaments in an elbow. This can lead to sore muscles and joint.
- Elbow fracture or dislocation can lead to severe joint pain. This needs prompt medical attention.
How to treat an injured elbow will depend upon the type and severity of the injury. Recovery time will depend upon the nature and severity of the injury, and age and overall health of the person. Prompt diagnosis and correct treatment ensure fast recovery. How long ago the injury has occurred, for how much time the person has ignored the pain play an important role in the type of treatment.
- Surgery, use of cortisone injections, medications, and home remedies help cure tennis elbow.
- First aid measures like applying an ointment or antiseptic lotion, taking a pain-killer are sufficient for minor injuries. A compression bandage helps reduce swelling and pain.
- Applying ice, providing sufficient rest to the sore elbow and taking medication for inflammation helps cure tendinitis. Keeping the arm in an elevated position helps reduce swelling and pain.
- An orthopedic surgeon can treat dislocation or fracture of the elbow joint. In case of a serious injury, surgery may be performed. The surgeon may recommend physiotherapy after the removal of plaster.
- You can use an elbow support such as an elbow sleeve, forearm wrap or arm sling to provide rest to the elbow joint. This can relieve stress on your forearm muscles. For treating tennis elbow, counter force braces are usually used.
- Proper gentle exercises involving movement of the joint help cure tender elbow fast. Gentle stretches work great to relieve elbow pain due to a trapped nerve. Regular exercise helps strengthen the muscles and can prevent painful situation like sore elbow.
- If symptoms like arm pain, squeezing chest pain (increasing in intensity), are experienced along with sore elbow, then one should immediately contact a heart specialist. These can be symptoms of a heart attack which need immediate medical attention.
- Sufficient rest, applying ice pack, keeping the joint covered with warm cloth, applying ointments, massaging with sesame or mustard oil, taking over the counter pain killers are some of the common sore muscles remedies, which can be opted for elbow pain relief.
This article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject. You should consult a physician before opting for home remedies. This helps avoid any further complications.