Everyone has had a minor elbow injury. You may have bumped your "funny bone" at the back of your elbow, causing shooting numbness and pain. The funny-bone sensation can be intense, but it is not serious and will go away on its own. Maybe your elbow has become sore after activity. Elbow injuries can be minor or serious and may include symptoms such as pain, swelling, numbness, tingling, weakness, or decreased range of motion. Home treatment often can help relieve minor aches and pains.
Injuries are the most common cause of elbow pain. Some people may not recall having had a specific injury, especially if symptoms began gradually or during everyday activities.To better understand elbow injuries, you may want to review the structure and function of the elbow. See a picture of the elbow .
Elbow injuries occur most commonly during:
- Sports or recreational activities.
- Work-related tasks.
- Work or projects around the home.
Most elbow injuries in children occur during activities, such as sports or play, or are the result of accidental falls. The risk for injury is higher in contact sports such as wrestling, football, or soccer, or high-speed sports such as biking, in-line skating, skiing, hockey, snowboarding, or skateboarding. Elbows, forearms, wrists, hands, and fingers are the most affected body areas. Any injury in a child or teen that occurs near a joint may injure the growing end (growth plate) of long bones and needs to be evaluated.
Older adults have a higher risk for injuries and fractures because they lose muscle mass and bone strength (osteoporosis) as they age. They also have more problems with vision and balance, which increase their risk for accidental injury.
An acute injury may be caused by a direct blow, penetrating injury, or fall or by twisting, jerking, jamming, or bending an elbow abnormally. Pain may be sudden and severe. Bruising and swelling may develop soon after the injury. Acute injuries include:
- Bruises from a tear or rupture of small blood vessels under the skin.
- Injuries to ligaments, the ropy fibers that connect bones to bones around joints.
- Injuries to tendons that connect muscles to bones.
- Injuries to joints (sprains) that stretch or tear the ligaments.
- Pulled muscles (strains) caused by overstretching muscles.
- Muscle tears or ruptures, such as your biceps or triceps in your upper arm.
- Broken bones (fractures) of the upper arm bone (humerus) or the forearm bones (ulna or radius) at the elbow joint.
- Dislocations of the elbow joint (out of its normal position).