Pain in the elbow

The elbow can feel painful due to various causes such as a fall or impact. A broken or bruised elbow is a common cause. Inflammation or irritation may also occur. In addition, the elbow can hurt because there is something wrong with the muscles, tendons, the bursa or the skin. The pain is often present when stretching or bending the arm. Whatever the cause, it can be detected and the elbow must be treated. Treatment may consist of bandages, pain relief or physiotherapy.

The elbow

The elbow is a joint that connects the upper arm and forearm. The joint ensures that the forearm can bend relative to the upper arm. This bend always goes inwards. In addition, the elbow can rotate the forearm relative to the upper arm. The two bones in the forearm can rotate over each other thanks to the elbow. The elbow can sometimes feel painful. This can be a temporary and short-lasting pain, but also a pain that is severe and sometimes lasts a long time. There are several causes for this.

Broken elbow

The elbow can break as a result of a fall on the elbow or a hard blow to it. A fall with an outstretched arm can also sometimes break the elbow. The elbow is sometimes accidentally bent in the wrong direction, in the opposite direction. A bone fracture can also occur in this case. Older people sometimes break their elbow as a result of osteoporosis.
The symptoms of a broken bone in the elbow are:

  • Very difficult and painful to bend or straighten the arm, often the arm is kept bent halfway.
  • Painful to rotate the forearm relative to the upper arm.
  • The elbow swells.
  • Haematoma (bruise) on the elbow and sometimes the area around it.
  • Sometimes numbness in the hand or fingers.
  • Sometimes a strange position of the elbow.

The elbow can hurt a lot and small children cry a lot and cannot be calmed down. Always see a doctor with these types of symptoms. This can assess whether the elbow is broken. The elbow itself can be cooled, which reduces swelling and numbs the pain. If necessary, the arm can be worn in a sling or sling. The doctor will scan the elbow and take an x-ray. The photo clearly shows that it is a broken elbow. When the ulna is broken at the elbow, it can sometimes only be treated with an upper arm cast. The fracture must then not have moved. If it has been moved, an operation will have to be performed followed by a plaster cast. In the event of a fracture of the radius bone in the elbow, rest is often sufficient. The doctor will apply a pressure bandage. Recovery depends on the fracture, but usually takes 4 to 8 weeks.

Bruised elbow

This is often caused by a hard blow to the elbow: the elbow becomes bruised. With a bruise, tissues are pressed hard against each other, resulting in damage. The bone, muscles, tendons or skin can be damaged. The symptoms include pain, swelling and often bruising. It is difficult to bend or straighten the arm. Twisting the arm is also painful.
The doctor will examine the elbow and sometimes take an X-ray. There is no fracture visible in the photo. A bruised elbow often heals with sufficient rest, but can remain painful for a long time. The pain can be even worse than with a broken bone in the elbow. Cooling the elbow reduces swelling and soothes pain. The disadvantage of frequent cooling is that it reduces white blood cells: something that is necessary for rapid healing. The doctor may prescribe NSAIDs: anti-inflammatory painkillers. A pressure bandage can be applied if necessary.


The bursa is a fluid-filled cushion located between a tendon and a bone of a joint. It serves as a cushion for the tendon. In the case of bursitis, this cushion is inflamed. Leaning on the elbow is often the cause of this. We often do this when working at a table or behind the PC. By continuously applying pressure to this pad, it becomes irritated and inflamed.
Pain occurs in the elbow, which is mainly aggravated by pressure on the elbow, such as leaning on a table. There is swelling and/or a warm and red discoloration of the skin. Sometimes you also get a fever, when a bacteria plays a role. This is often preceded by a period in which you have had pain in your elbow for some time or have hit your elbow hard. If you have the above complaints, see a doctor. This will conduct an investigation. With bursitis it is important to avoid leaning on the elbow as much as possible. Anti-inflammatories and sometimes painkillers are often prescribed. It is important to move the elbow in a measured manner. Exercise is good for blood circulation, which allows the inflammation to heal faster. Sometimes physiotherapy helps with this. In severe cases, the inflamed bursa is removed.


Elbow tendonitis often occurs as a result of overuse. Sometimes antibiotic use is the cause of this, causing damage to the tendon attachment. Usually no clear cause can be found. The first symptoms are pain when applying force with the elbow. For example, when wringing out a cloth, pain is felt in the elbow. This pain is often felt on the outside of the elbow. Lifting heavy objects is also painful, especially with the arm extended and weight resting on the elbow. Treatment consists of painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The tendon can be strengthened with the help of exercises. The physiotherapist can help with this. A support bandage can be applied that sometimes reduces the pain. In severe cases, surgery may be performed to remove the inflamed tissue.

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