The elbow is one of the most extensive and most complicated joints in the body, connecting the bones of the forearm to the upper arm bone through a network of ligaments and muscles. Elbows also are one of the most frequently exercised and stressed joints, making them highly prone to injury and conditions that can cause significant pain.
If you are experiencing pain in your elbow when you straighten your arm, you can try some home remedies that may reduce or alleviate the pain. Let’s take a look at the possible causes of your elbow pain and what you can do at home to make it better.
Possible Causes of Elbow Pain
Here are a few possible reasons you may be feeling elbow pain:
Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a painful condition on the lateral (outside) part of the elbow where the wrist extensor muscles attach to the bone. Tennis elbow is a common condition often affecting middle-age people of any activity level, including:
- Baseball and softball players
- Tennis, squash, pickleball, and racquetball players
- Assembly-line workers and auto mechanics
- Butchers and chefs
- Carpenters, cleaners, painters, and plumbers
- Gardeners and landscapers
Golfer’s elbow, also known as medial epicondylitis, is a condition of the medial (inside) tendon, or inner part of the elbow. People with golfer’s elbow have inner elbow pain that extends down the arm. People suffering from golfer’s elbow may also have finger numbness, tingling, or stiffness. Golfers can get tennis elbow, just as tennis players may get golfer’s elbow.
Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursae—tiny sacs of fluid found in your elbow that prevent the tendons from rubbing against your bones and muscles. Sometimes, the bursa will fill with fluid. The swelling, pain, and tenderness can limit your elbow’s ability to bend or straighten.
Ulnar Nerve Entrapment
Also referred to as cubital tunnel syndrome, ulnar nerve entrapment occurs when the ulnar nerve – the nerve that travels from your neck down into your hand – becomes constricted or irritated. The most common place for constriction of the nerve is behind the inside part of the elbow. Symptoms of this syndrome include numbness and tingling in the hand and fingers.
Biceps tendinitis is the inflammation of the biceps tendon—which connects your bicep muscles to the inside of your elbow joint. Pain and discomfort can be felt when trying to straighten or bend your elbow. This tendon can also tear or completely rupture, which may cause intense pain.
Elbow osteoarthritis results from a breakdown and wearing away of the protective cartilage that covers the bones. Although typically caused by age and genetics, prior injuries can increase the risk.
Elbow pain felt when you straighten your arm can be caused by a dislocation, but it is rare. The elbow joint can dislocate if you fall on your arm while fully extended. You will see obvious bruising and swelling and feel significant pain when you try to straighten or bend your elbow.
Home Treatments for Elbow Pain
If you feel pain in your elbow when you straighten your arm, you can try some of these home remedies that have been shown to minimize or alleviate the pain:
Rest: Take a break from the activity that is causing the pain.
Medication: Take an over-the-counter pain reliever or anti-inflammatory, according to the instructions on the label.
Ice: Apply ice packs to your elbow for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, three to four times a day for several days. Wrap the ice packs in a thin towel to protect your skin.
Stretching: Stretching exercises done daily, before and after an activity, may increase flexibility and reduce strain.
Strengthening: Your doctor might suggest specific strength-training exercises for your elbow.
Brace: Your doctor might recommend wearing a counterforce brace to reduce tendon and muscle strain.
Massage: Soft, gentle massage may soothe your muscles and reduce pain.
Professional Treatments for Elbow Issues
If your elbow pain persists after trying these home remedies, you should see a doctor. Our board-certified, fellowship-trained surgeons have extensive experience in a range of advanced treatments and procedures for the elbow and arm, including:
- Occupational therapy
- Steroid and PRP injections
- Joint Replacements
- Tennis Elbow Release
- Golfer’s Elbow Release
- Repair Biceps Tendon Ruptures at Elbow
- Cubital Tunnel Release (Ulnar Nerve at Elbow)
- Elbow Arthroscopy for Loose Bodies, Arthritis
- Releases for Stiff Elbows
- Ligament Reconstruction for Loose Elbows
- Operative Fixation of Elbow Fractures
Schedule an appointment today. Emerge Stronger, Healthier, and Better with the help of EmergeOrtho—Blue Ridge Region’s elbow experts.