Elbow Pain

The elbow is an important joint of the arm and without it we would struggle to perform a lot of our day to day tasks of living. 

The elbow joint consists of three bones:

- The humerus (bone of the upper arm) 

- The radius (bone of the forearm)

- The ulna (bone of the forearm)

The main elbow joint is made up of the link between the humerus and the two forearm bones. Movement at this joint allows you to bend and straighten your elbow. 

There is also a joint between the two forearm bones- this joint allows the forearm to turn the palm of your hand up or down.

Injury to the bones or joints can lead to stiffness in these movements which can then lead to problems carrying out everyday tasks.  

 

​Despite being problematic and impacting on our day to day life, there's no reason why elbow pain should stop you from continuing your everyday life. In most cases it can be easily managed by you at home. Use the links below to find out more about specific problems with your wrist or hand. 

Common elbow problems

Lateral epicondylitis – ‘Tennis elbow’


Lateral epicondylitis is the medical name for pain that arises from the outer (‘lateral’) part of the elbow. It is often referred to as ‘Tennis elbow’. Tennis elbow is often due to inflammation of the wrist extensor tendons. These tendons are involved in bending the wrist joint up (extension) and are also active when gripping with the wrist extended (as in tennis, hence the name). Any repetitive activity that twists and extends the wrist can lead to tennis elbow. When large and inflamed, the tendons can cause pain with certain activities e.g. lifting, gripping. If left untreated the tenderness can increase to an intermittent sharp shooting pain which comes on with activities such as gripping/ lifting heavy item/ making a fist / shaking hands. A more constant dull ache can also start to be present even at rest and pain can become more widespread down the forearm towards the hand. What causes tennis elbow If you do work or hobbies that mean you are repeatedly gripping or bending/extending the wrist. It can also be caused when you do an activity you've not done very much before. e.g decorating your house. Check if you have tennis elbow The symptoms of tennis elbow include; - Local pain or tenderness on the bony bump on the outside of the elbow. - Pain with certain activities; gripping (driving/shaking hands), wrist extension, repetitive activities. How to treat tennis elbow yourself:

  • Tennis elbow can sometimes settle on its own or with a period of rest or activity modification (taking a break from the activity that makes symptoms worse).
  • Pain killers like paracetamol or ibuprofen (anti-inflammatories) may offer short relief (consult your pharmacist if you are unsure)
  • Ice - Using an ice pack and performing ice massage with an ice cube over the affected area is recommended ( click here to find out more)
  • Wear a tennis elbow strap - An ‘epicondylitis clasp’ can sometimes be helpful to offload the tendon and therefore decrease the pain. This is worn just below the elbow with the aim of decreasing the stress/ tension on the tendon when the muscle contracts. You will be able to find these online or at your loca pharmacy.
Click here to download a self help exercise sheet




Medial epicondylitis – ‘Golfers elbow’


Medial epicondylitis is the medical name for pain that arises from the inner (‘medial’) part of the elbow. It is often referred to as ‘Golfers elbow’. Golfers elbow is often due to inflammation of the wrist flexor tendons. These tendons are involved in flexing the wrist joint and are also active when gripping with the wrist flexed (as in golf, hence the name). Any repetitive activity that twists and flexes the wrist can lead to golfer’s elbow. When large and inflamed the tendons can cause pain with certain activities e.g. lifting, gripping. If left untreated the tenderness can increase to an intermittent sharp shooting pain which comes on with activities such as gripping/ lifting heavy item/ making a fist / shaking hands. A more constant dull ache can also start to be present even at rest and pain can become more widespread down the forearm towards the hand. There may be discomfort in extending (straightening) the wrist also, due to stretching of the affected muscles. What causes golfer’s elbow If you do work or hobbies that mean you are repeatedly gripping or bending/flexing the wrist Check if you have golfers elbow The symptoms of golfers elbow include; Local pain or tenderness on the bony bump on the inside of the elbow. Pain with certain activities; gripping (driving/shaking hands), wrist flexion, repetitive activities. How to treat golfers elbow yourself: Golfers elbow can sometimes settle on its own or with a period of rest or activity modification (taking a break from the activity that makes symptoms worse). Pain killers -Pain killers like paracetamol or ibuprofen (anti-inflammatories) may offer short relief - Consult your local pharmacy if you are unsure. Ice - Using an ice pack and performing ice massage with an ice cube over the affected area is recommended. ( click here to find out more) Wear a golfers elbow strap - An ‘epicondylitis clasp’ can sometimes be helpful to offload the tendon and therefore decrease the pain. This is worn just below the elbow with the aim of decreasing the stress/ tension on the tendon when the muscle contracts. You will be able to find these online or in your local pharmacy.




Osteoarthritis


Osteoarthritis is ‘wear and tear’ where the cartilage lining the joint becomes worn, causing inflammation, pain and stiffness. This stiffness is often more common in the morning or after pjysical activity. Osteoarthritis is more common in the ageing population and those who have had trauma (e.g. a break/fracture) to their elbow in the past. It is important to try and continue with gentle exercise to help maintain movement and stimulate the natural lubricating fluid of the joint. If pain is not adequately controlled with simple pain killers, then consult your GP/Pharmacist. They may consider stronger pain relief or a steroid injection. You may also benefit from using a hot pack on your elbow ( Click here for more information on applying a hot pack)





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Harrogate & District NHS Foundation Trust, Lancaster Park Road, Harrogate, HG1 7 SX