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Elbow Problems

As one of the most frequently used joints, the elbow can develop a variety of problems. Some may stem from injury or overuse of the elbow, while other issues may be related to arthritis or other medical conditions.

Types of Elbow Problems

One of the most common causes of an elbow problem is tendinitis, which is sometimes called “tennis elbow.” This is an injury of the tendons, which connect the muscles to the bones. It can result from a sports injury or simply overuse of the elbow, perhaps from work or home repair projects.

Injuries can cause other elbow problems as well, including fractures, dislocations, strains and sprains. Elbow bursitis can also occur from an injury or overuse. This occurs when the bursa, a fluid-filled sack that acts like padding between the bone and the other moving parts around it, becomes inflamed, causing a lot of pain.

Arthritis, or pain and swelling in the joints, can also occur in the elbow. This usually develops over time or because of an injury or overuse; that's known as osteoarthritis. In rare instances, arthritis in the elbow could be an autoimmune disorder known as rheumatoid arthritis, in which the body’s own immune system attacks the joint, causing the pain and swelling.


The treatment for elbow problems will vary quite a bit depending on the cause and severity of the problem. Minor elbow issues often can be alleviated with over-the-counter painkillers, applications of ice and rest. Corrective surgeries might be needed in the case of fractures, dislocations and other severe problems. Medications may help in treating arthritis. And, in some instances, physical therapy may also be needed.

SOURCES: U.S. National Library of Medicine

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