Elbow Pain and Problems

The elbow is the joint in the arm that connects the humerus to the radius and ulna. The joint is connected by ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Elbow pain may be localized in one area or may spread to areas down the forearm towards the wrist. The most common elbow problems include the following:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Bursitis (olecranon)
  • Ligament injury or tear
  • Muscle injury
  • Dislocation/subluxation
  • Instability
  • Hypermobility
  • Tendinopathy/tendon tear (lateral epicondylosis [tennis elbow], medial epicondylosis [golfer’s elbow])
  • Overuse injury
  • Nerve conditions
  • Bone injury/fracture
  • Congenital/alignment abnormalities

Causes of Elbow Problems

Many elbow problems result from overuse. They can also happen due to the aging process and continual wear and stress. Other elbow problems result from injury.

Diagnosing Elbow Problems

In addition to taking a complete medical history and performing a physical exam, your doctor may order any of the following tests to diagnose an elbow problem:

  • X-ray
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan)
  • Electromyogram/nerve condition (EMG/NCV) to check nerve and muscle function
  • Ultrasound
  • Laboratory tests, if needed

Treatments for Elbow Problems

Your doctor will work with you to determine the best treatment based on your age, overall health, and medical history; the severity of your condition; and your tolerance for certain medications, procedures, or therapies.

Treatment for your elbow problem may include activity modification, exercise, physical therapy, medications, pain management techniques, injections, or surgery.

Why Choose Columbia for Elbow Care

Our physicians are highly skilled in diagnosing and treating elbow conditions. We perform a thorough diagnostic evaluation to find the cause of your pain and plan the most conservative treatment possible, which may include exercise, lifestyle changes, medications, and if needed, injections or other pain management techniques. Our physicians may use imaging to guide injections so the medication is placed precisely. If an elbow condition does not improve, we work closely with Columbia orthopedic surgeons for cases that require a procedure.