How does the elbow work?
The elbow is a hinge joint where the bone at the top of your arm (humerus) meets the bones of your forearm (radius and ulna). The elbow joint allows you to bend and straighten your arm and also rotates to allow you to twist your forearm.
The elbow joint is supported by ligaments and has several nerves that travel past it.
There are many muscles that attach to the elbow joint which enable you to not only bend and straighten the elbow but also to move the wrist and fingers.
Causes of Elbow Pain
Elbow pain is most commonly caused by a simple strain or inflammation to tendons or ligaments that attach to it.
Doing a repetitive activity such as gardening or decorating can lead to this. Stopping or modifying this activity for a couple of weeks should help the pain settle.
Elbow pain from repetitive activities is often referred to as tennis elbow or golfers elbow.
Tennis elbow is pain originating from the tendons on the outside of the elbow, whilst golfer’s elbow is pain originating from the tendons on the inside of the elbow. Tennis elbow can be caused from working for long periods on computers or laptops without rest.
If you have fallen
If you’ve fallen, onto your elbow or hand and you’re finding it difficult to bend or straighten the arm or turn your palm up or down, or you have deformity you may need to see a doctor.
You should urgently call CAV 24/7 on 0300 1020247, as there is a small possibility of a fracture to the elbow when landing with your hand outstretched or if you land directly onto your elbow.
Keeping your elbow and arm strong and moving well can help to prevent elbow pain and stiffness is an essential part of your treatment and recovery. Elbow pain will usually settle quickly within a couple of days to weeks, without the need to see a doctor or therapist.
Being physically active throughout recovery can:
- prevent a recurrence of the problem
- maintain your current levels of fitness – even if you have to modify what you normally do, any activity is better than none
- keep your other muscles and joints strong and flexible
- Keep a healthy body weight
It’s recommended you stay at or return to work as quickly as possible during your recovery. You don’t need to be pain and symptom-free to return to work.
- Reduce or modify your activity but avoid long spells of not moving at all
- Move your elbow gently for 10 to 20 seconds every hour when you are awake
- Taking pain killers can help to settle elbow pain in the short term
- Slowly return to normal activity
- Do whatever you normally would including staying at, or return to work if possible
- Avoid sports or heavy lifting until you have less discomfort and good movement.
Remember to warm up fully before you start sporting activities
If you would like advice about medication or other methods of pain relief to help you to manage your pain better speak to your community pharmacist.
Pain medication can help to reduce pain and help you to move more comfortably, which can aid your recovery.
When taking pain medication it is important to take it regularly.
When to see your GP
If think you may have an infection in your elbow joint – for example severe pain, swelling, heat and redness arrange an appointment with the GP.
Self Referral to Physiotherapy (MSK)
If you have completed 4-6 weeks of these exercises and your symptoms have not improved: