Why Do I Have Elbow Pain?
There can be numerous reasons because of which patient may have elbow pain. Few reasons are listed below-
Most commonly patients complain of pain in case of fracture, which is usually due to supracondylar fracture that is mostly seen in children. It is the most common fracture seen in children. This causes extensive pain and at times involves ulnar nerve, which makes the situation worst.
The patient usually has a claw hand if the ulnar nerve is involved. So, if a child is coming with a pain in the elbow after a history of fall with an outstretched hand the most likely reason is often a supracondylar fracture. This requires immediate treatment, as it is considered a medical emergency. So, pain in children is mostly due to fracture.
Treatment is immobilization in cases of undisplaced fracture. Plaster should be applied placing the elbow at 90 degrees. And in the case of displaced fracture hospital administration is needed. Closed reduction should be employed first and percutaneous insertion of K wires subsequently. Closed reduction can be done through traction technique or by applying pressure over the olecranon.
If closed reduction fails, open reduction should be taken into consideration. And if there is an open fracture, then the first line of treatment is an open reduction. If there is an injury to the brachial artery, then also open reduction is preferred. Continuous traction is another method employed in the treatment of the fracture. This is done when there is excessive swelling around the wound.
Arthritis can be considered a cause of elbow pain in elderly patients, but this is usually very rare as in arthritis large joints are affected, which mostly includes knee and hip joint. In very negligible cases, elbow joints are affected. Arthritis causes inflammation of synovial joint which is responsible for pain. This is mostly encountered in elderly women. The treatment of choice is analgesic and in severe cases, the corticosteroid should be given, but care should be taken while prescribing a corticosteroid to an elderly woman, as it may increase the risk of osteoporosis in such women.
Women at times may have pain in the elbow joint after menopause when there is a decreased level of estrogen. This usually occurs in women when osteoporosis is suspected. At such stage x-ray of the affected joint should be done along with calcium supplements and zoledronate. This will prevent the progression of osteoporosis.
Other causes which can cause elbow pain are tennis elbow in which lateral condyle is involved and inflammation is seen over the elbow. Pain on the extension of the elbow as extensors of the elbow is involved. Mostly seen in tennis players and hence proper care and precautions should be taken while playing tennis.
The golden elbow is another such condition in which instead of the lateral condyle, medial condyle is involved. And hence here flexors are involved instead of extensors. Pain and tenderness on the medial condyle of the elbow are seen. Patients complain difficulty during flexion of the arm. Treatment is RICE therapy where R stands for rest, I stand for ice, C stands for compression, and E stands for an elevation of the limb, which is done to prevent accumulation of fluid and present excessive swelling on that area.
There can be other causes of elbow pain which includes excessive leaning or sitting by applying pressure on the elbow. This is called student’s elbow as most of the time, it is seen in students who sit in a class by applying pressure on their elbows.
At times there is elbow pain due to the pulled elbow, which occurs when a person is pulled and at that time elbow joint dislocate, which can cause elbow pain. Hence care should be taken in case of children. Most children are pulled and at that time elbow joints injury is usually seen, so precaution should be taken especially while dealing with small kids, as it may cause excessive pain.
Other miscellaneous causes include trauma to the elbow or injury while working, which do not usually requires any medications. It relieves itself with no medical therapy.
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. (2020). Elbow Fractures in Children. OrthoInfo. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/elbow-fractures-in-children
- Mayo Clinic. (2021). Arthritis https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/arthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350772
- National Institute on Aging. (2021). Osteoporosis https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/osteoporosis
- Mayo Clinic. (2019). Tennis Elbow https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tennis-elbow/symptoms-causes/syc-20351987
- Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego. (n.d.). Nursemaid’s Elbow https://www.rchsd.org/programs-services/radiology/nursemaids-elbow/