Elbow pain: Causes, symptoms and pain relief

Elbow pain affects up to 3% of the population, most commonly among 35-54 year olds¹

The elbow joint is where the humerus, the bone from the upper arm, meets the ulna and the radius, the two bones from the forearm. It’s a joint that moves up and down, from side to side and rotates. A joint with many different parts, and many different ways to cause pain.

Elbow Pain Causes

There are many ways that the elbow can cause pain, but these causes fall into four main categories.

Individual injuries – A strain or a sprain, fracture or dislocation that might occur when playing sport. These injuries are common, often caused by overdoing it or from a fall. An injury like this is usually acute pain and once the injury has healed the pain will go away.

Wear and tear injuries – These injuries can also be caused by exercising but are just as likely to be repetitive strain injuries that come from a work setting. Common wear and tear injuries are:

  • Bursitis, swelling in the fluid sac that usually cushions bones, tendons and muscles.
  • Tendonitis, colloquially known as tennis or golf elbow, this is damage to the tendons from overuse. An increasing about of people also suffer from the condition as a result of prolonged time working at a desk, a type of tendonitis casually called ‘computer elbow.
  • Trapped nerves, sometimes referred to as cubital tunnel syndrome – which is similar to carpal tunnel syndrome, but in the elbow – is when a nerve gets squeezed around the joint and causes pain.
  • Stress fractures, when a small crack appears in one of the bones around the elbow, usually from overuse.

Diseases – Although elbow pain is not usually the main symptom, many diseases can also cause pain around the joint. For example, arthritis, gout, lupus and Lyme disease.

Elbow pain exercises

When managing any type of pain, it’s advisable to keep doing gentle exercise with the affected body part so it doesn’t get stiff and seize up, becoming even more painful. There are two recommend exercises to relieve elbow pain:

  • Elbow bend – stand up straight with your arms by your side, raise the affected arm up, palm first towards your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 10 times.
  • Wrist rotation – Either sitting or standing, hold your affected arm out in front of you palms facing up, slowly rotate your wrist so that your palm is facing downwards. Hold this position for 15 seconds and repeat 5 times.

Read more in our blog, 5 Elbow Pain Exercises for The Home.

It’s important not to overdo exercise like this. Start with a few repetitions, three times daily and build up. Stop if you feel sharp pain. If the pain doesn’t improve or gets worse, contact a medical professional.

Elbow pain treatment

Elbow pain is unquestionably uncomfortable. studies have shown that it can impact sleep, ability to use the hand and even impact mental health2. Thankfully, the causes of elbow pain are not usually serious.  In addition to the recommended exercises, there are other things you can try at home to ease the pain.

  • Ice – When elbow pain starts, try icing it for five minutes, three times a day. This should help to reduce any swelling.
  • Painkillers – Pills like paracetamol or ibuprofen are a popular way to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Raising the arm – This only works if the elbow is swollen but can help to reduce inflammation.
  • Braces or padding – Adding strapping that immobilises the elbow joint – in the short term – may help it to heal more quickly. However, it’s important to exercise and move the joint as soon as the pain allows.

If the pain is severe, feels tingly and you are feeling shivery and as though you have a temperature, don’t take the above steps and instead contact your doctor. Do likewise if your arm has changed shape or you have heard a snapping noise.

If your elbow pain is significant, your doctor may suggest physical therapy or steroid injections.

How BiowaveGO Relieves Elbow Pain

  • BioWaveGOs 100% drug-free pain blocking technology stops pain at the nerve
  • Place the non-invasive electrodes around the painful elbow joint
  • Start your device – a 30-minute treatment is sufficient
  • One session can provide pain relief for up to eight hours 
  • BioWave has an immediate effect, but there is also a cumulative effect on the nerve signals so prolonged used might have additional benefits

Find out more about BioWaveGo’s innovative technology.

  1. NHS England: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/tennis-elbow/
  2. Descatha ADespréaux TCalfee R PEvanoff BSaint-Lary O. Progressive elbow pain BMJ 2016; 353 :i1391 doi:10.1136/bmj.i1391,  https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i1391