Pain in the elbow can be a real burden. Above all, because a joint is involved, its use in everyday activities is unavoidable. Because the elbow joint we need every arm movement. Some pain in the elbow lasts only briefly, while others develop into chronic pain. Therefore, it is important to assess the pain correctly and consult a doctor if necessary.
Pain in the elbow - when to the doctor?
Pain is always an alarm signal from the body that something is wrong. Whether you need to see a doctor immediately depends on the intensity and duration of the symptoms. In principle, one can say that sudden, violent pains are more of an alarm signal than long-lasting, weaker ones.
Symptoms visible from the outside, such as redness or swelling, also indicate more clearly a disease to be treated.
Red, warm, thick and painful
Painful redness, swelling, and overheating on the elbow may be primarily indicative of bursitis. The liquid-filled bags (bursa) are used for shock and friction damping. They can not be touched and felt, unless they are swollen morbidly. Then they can hurt too.
First aid with bursitis
First measures in case of suspected inflamed bursa are cooling and protecting. In addition, analgesics can be taken. It should be used on preparations that also have anti-inflammatory effect.
Especially with a spreading redness of the family doctor must be consulted. An immobilization in a humeral splint or the prescription of an antibiotic may be necessary. If bursitis is more common, even surgical removal may be indicated.
Red and warm - a rash on the elbow
Another cause of redness and overheating on the elbow may be a rash. A rash manifests itself through classic changes in the skin:
Causes of a rash are endless.
Common causes of rashes are contact allergies, such as grasses or detergents. Often it is sufficient to avoid the allergy triggers. If this does not help, the family doctor or a dermatologist should be consulted.
Not to be confused, however, is such a rash on the elbow but with psoriasis, which typically occurs on the elbow outer and knee front surfaces. It manifests itself through dry skin and dandruff. This non-contagious disease is genetically determined and inheritable.
There is no chance of cure, but many symptom-relieving procedures such as ointments, diet changes and light therapy.
Electrifying pain on the elbow
Pain such as pinpricks or "electrical shocks" are typical signs of nerve pain. There are two major nerves on the elbow:
- the ulnar nerve, which runs towards the outside of the hand
- the radial nerve (spinal nerve), which ends at the thumb side of the hand
Causes of nerve pain can be, for example, a nerve crush or a nerve constriction syndrome.
The Musical Bones - Pain like pinpricks
A bruising of the nerve is present in the classic phenomenon of the Musicalantenbochens. But what exactly is the musician bone?
This refers to the ulnar nerve, which originates from the cervical spinal cord and runs over the upper arm to the elbow joint and then to the forearm and the hand. At the elbow he lies in his "spokes trough" (Sulcus ulnaris), in which he should actually be protected by the bony-shaped groove. However, he is often squeezed when the elbow bumps and sends electrifying pain signals to the brain, the hand, and sometimes the shoulder. If the first pain subsides, a tingling sensation may last even longer.
Sometimes even the hand or individual fingers are numb or gripping restricted. All these complaints should go back after a short time. If you stop for longer, consult a neurologist or orthopedist.
Chronic pain on the elbow
If electrical pain of the hand occurs permanently without a bruise, there may be a so-called bottleneck syndrome. In most cases, the ulnar nerve is affected as part of the "ulnar sinus syndrome" (sulcus ulnaris).
As the name of the syndrome implies, the nerve is narrowed and irritated and squeezed as it progresses. Tingling, numbness or loss of strength can also be signs of the bottleneck syndrome.
The syndrome is caused by permanent stress, for example daily support on a tabletop during office work. Also physical work can lead to a bottleneck syndrome by a thickening of the musculature.
What to do with the bottleneck syndrome?
First and foremost, congestive syndrome should be treated conservatively. Care, cooling and, if necessary, immobilization in a splint or bandage are often sufficient. Only in case of persistent symptoms should an operation be considered for the exposure of the ulnar nerve.
Osteoarthritis at the elbow joint
Another common cause of never ending pain at the elbow joint is the joint wear (arthrosis). Like any other joint in the body, the elbow is not immune to cartilage abrasion. Typical are movement pains. But even at night it can come to pain peaks.
Who has burdened the elbow throughout his life a lot, for example, by physical work or certain sports, has an increased risk of osteoarthritis. The cartilage degradation is irreversible, secondary prevention in the sense of joint-friendly activities and strengthening the muscles surrounding the joint can delay the course.
Pain in the elbow after exercise
In many ball sports or in strength training, the elbow joint is heavily stressed. Pain in bending and stretching may indicate an overuse. The musculature surrounding the elbow joint may be overstressed, or the bony and cartilaginous joint itself. Even tendonitis may be behind it.
First measures of the treatment should consist of protection and cooling of the elbow, with strong complaints a pain medication can be taken. If symptoms persist, consult a doctor.
Tendonitis on the elbow
Tendinitis usually affects the forearm extensors that we need to spread the fingers and stretch the wrist. Then one speaks of the so-called tennis elbow or tennis elbow (epicondylitis humeri radialis).
The forearm extensor muscles begin with their tendons on the thumb-side (radial) elbow. Therefore, one feels in the elbow also pain while gripping. The symptoms can also become chronic.
Causes are - in addition to playing tennis - sport-independent, repetitive or unfamiliar activities, such as the daily office work on the keyboard or with the mouse.
What to do with a tennis elbow?
The therapy of a tendonitis consists of protection of the elbow and possibly temporary immobilization in a humeral splint and the use of anti-inflammatory analgesics. If the pain-inducing movement is avoided for a while, the symptoms should get better.
For permanent discomfort creates a bandage remedy. In extreme cases, surgery may be recommended.
Pain in the elbow after fall
In a fall, you often catch yourself with your hands or fall on your knees and elbows. The bruising of the joint causes a squeezing of the soft tissue, in particular of the muscles and fatty tissue.
The underlying structures such as nerves, lymphatics and vessels can also be affected. Often a bruise (hematoma) forms. In addition, the volume increase in the tissue causes pain.
In a fall on the elbow, however, you can also contract a bone fracture. Sometimes the crackling is even heard and the break from a malposition is suspected from the outside.
What to do for elbow pain after fall?
With persistent pain, a growing bruise, and most likely a bone fracture, a surgeon must be consulted. This can make X-rays of the bones in addition to the clinical examination.
In a simple hematoma, sparing, cooling and analgesics are the treatment of choice. In the case of a broken bone, the arm usually needs to be immobilized, or even operated on, in an upper arm cast.