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Why Does My Elbow Hurt? 10 Possible Causes

Blue Ridge Region / 19 Mar 2023

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by EmergeOrtho
Why Does My Elbow Hurt? 10 Possible Causes

According to orthopedists, elbow pain can be caused by a variety of injuries, conditions, strains, and traumas. If you are trying to learn why your elbow hurts, you can start by narrowing down where the pain emanates from and what type of pain it is.

Identify the location of your pain from the lists below, learn the possible causes, and refer to the “Elbow Pain Reference Guide” below for more details of the possible conditions. If your pain is severe, persistent, or chronic, you should consult with an elbow orthopedic expert to help you get relief.

Locate Your Elbow Pain

Pain on the Outside of the Elbow

Outside elbow pain, also known as lateral elbow pain, can be caused by an overuse injury or other injuries, conditions, and traumas, such as:

  • Tennis elbow
  • Radial tunnel syndrome
  • Radiohumeral bursitis
  • Dislocation

Pain on the Inside of the Elbow

Pain on the inside of the elbow, or medial elbow pain, either comes on gradually through overuse (chronic injuries) or comes on suddenly (acute injuries). Examples include:

  • Golfer’s elbow
  • Biceps tendinitis
  • Dislocation
  • Fracture

Pain When Straightening or Bending the Arm

Several conditions can cause your elbow to hurt when your arm is bent or straightened, including:

  • Tennis elbow
  • Golfer’s elbow
  • Bursitis
  • Biceps tendinitis

An orthopedic doctor examines a senior female patient’s left elbow in a medical facility.Numbness or Tingling in the Hand/Fingers

Numbness, tingling, or stiffness in your fingers or hands is often associated with these elbow conditions or injuries:

  • Golfer’s elbow
  • Ulnar nerve entrapment

Swelling and Tenderness Around the Elbow

Swelling and tenderness around the elbow can be caused by trauma, strains, or injuries, including:

  • Bursitis
  • Elbow osteoarthritis
  • Fracture

Limited Joint Movement/Stiffness

Limited elbow movement as well as stiffness is sometimes a symptom caused by:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Ulnar nerve entrapment
  • Fracture

Elbow Popping

If your elbow pops when you straighten it, this could be due to a variety of underlying conditions, including:

  • Tennis elbow
  • Ulnar nerve entrapment
  • Golfer’s elbow
  • Dislocated elbow
  • Sprain
  • Fracture
  • Loose Bodies

Elbow Pain Reference Guide

Here is a simple reference tool describing 10 of the more common reasons your elbow may hurt:

Biceps Tendinitis

Biceps tendinitis is the inflammation of the biceps tendon—which connects your bicep muscles to the inside of your elbow joint.

Bursitis (Radiohumeral)

Radiohumeral bursitis is inflammation of the bursa, a small fluid-filled sac on the outer elbow that reduces friction during movements. Inflammation of the radiohumeral bursa may be caused by a direct blow to the outer elbow, repetitive forearm movements, or infection.

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Also known as ulnar nerve entrapment, this occurs when the ulnar nerve—the nerve that travels from your neck down into your hand—becomes constricted or irritated most commonly behind the inside part of the elbow.


Elbow dislocations are uncommon and typically occur when a person falls onto an outstretched hand, sometimes with a turning motion. The arm will look deformed and may have an odd twist at the elbow.

Golfer’s Elbow

Golfer’s elbow is a common condition of the medial (inside) tendon, or inner part of the elbow. People suffering from golfer’s elbow have inner elbow pain that extends down the arm and may also have finger numbness, tingling, or stiffness.


An elbow fracture is a fracture at the tip of the elbow. Fractures can happen as a result of trauma such as a direct blow, falling on the elbow, or landing on an outstretched hand.


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.

Radial Tunnel Syndrome

Radial tunnel syndrome, or radial nerve entrapment, develops when there is compression of one of the nerves in the forearm, just below the elbow. This usually results from repetitive forearm movements such as gripping, twisting, and throwing activities.


Elbow sprains are injuries to the ligaments around the elbow joint and can happen when the arm is bent or twisted quickly or forcibly.

Tennis Elbow

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 often affects middle-aged people involved in several sports activities and manually intensive occupations.

Treatments for Elbow Issues

If your elbow pain persists, you should be evaluated by an orthopedic elbow specialist. EmergeOrtho—Blue Ridge Region’s board-certified surgeons have extensive experience in a range of advanced treatments and procedures for the elbow, including:

  • Occupational therapy
  • Steroid and PRP injections
  • Joint replacements
  • Tennis elbow release
  • Golfer’s elbow release
  • Repair biceps tendon ruptures at the elbow
  • Cubital tunnel release
  • Elbow arthroscopy for loose bodies, arthritis
  • Releases for stiff elbows
  • Ligament reconstruction for loose elbows
  • Operative fixation of elbow fractures
  • Elbow arthroscopy

If you are wondering why your elbow hurts and cannot get relief at home, learn more from our elbow specialists or request an appointment so you can Emerge Stronger, Healthier, and Better.

A New Level Of Orthopedic Care Has Emerged

EmergeOrtho-Blue Ridge Region patients benefit from a full range of orthopedic services, including diagnostics, imaging, treatment, physical and occupational therapy, and pain management. From conservative care to surgical interventions, our team of specialists provides expert care and real results. Self-schedule or request your appointment today.