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Potential Culprits Behind Your Elbow Pain

Potential Culprits Behind Your Elbow Pain

You put your elbow down on the table and lean on it, and you’re met with eye-watering pain. Or, maybe the joint pain has more of a dull ache that flares after use or toward the end of the day.

At William Schell, MD, Dr. Schell is a highly experienced orthopedic surgeon who specializes in elbows, and he understands the many ways in which this joint can experience pain.

Below, we focus on the most common culprits when it comes to elbow pain.

Elbow fracture

Your elbow contains three bones — your ulna, your radius, and your humerus. Of the three, your ulna is the one that creates the pointy, mostly unprotected tip of your elbow, which is called the olecranon. This bone is more susceptible to fractures, which can be very painful when you press on the broken bone.

That said, you can also break other bones in your elbow, all of which can lead to considerable pain and difficulty moving the joint.

Olecranon bursitis

If the bursa sac located in the tip of your elbow is inflamed, it can lead to very sharp pain when you lean on the joint. 

Elbow dislocation

A dislocation occurs when bones inside your joint are separated. A complete elbow dislocation is an extremely painful condition, and you’ll likely see deformity from the outside. This condition benefits from immediate help so you should contact us as soon as possible.. 

If you have a partial dislocation, the pain may not be as severe and only flare when you move the joint in certain ways or lean on it.

Outside of pain, you can also experience tenderness, swelling, and bruising.

Osteoarthritis (OA)

Like other major joints in your body, your elbows rely on cartilage to protect the end of the bones inside the joint and encourage smooth movement. With OA, the cartilage breaks down, allowing the bones to rub together, which leads to pain and inflammation. As well, elbow OA can lead to bone spurs or bone fragments in the joint.

When it comes to discomfort, OA pain is often dull and flares with use. You may also experience stiffness in your elbow.


The most common cause of elbow pain is tendonitis, which is when a tendon has tiny micro injuries, usually due to overuse, that leads to inflammation. There are different types of tendonitis that can develop inside your elbow, including:

With all forms of tendonitis, you may experience pain and stiffness, which can flare with use.

Cubital tunnel syndrome

Your ulnar nerve passes threads through your elbow and travels down to your hand. (When you hit your elbow hard and hurt the “funny bone,“ it’s this nerve that’s responding.) 

When the ulnar nerve is compressed in the cubital tunnel inside your elbow, you may experience pain and tingling in your hand, especially your ring and pinkie fingers.

Given that your elbows are major joints in your body, they are more in the line of fire when it comes to injury and disease. 

If you’re experiencing elbow pain, the best step is to come see us so we can restore pain-free movement in your joint.

For expert diagnosis and treatment of your elbow pain, please contact our New York City office to schedule an appointment. We’re located on Columbus Circle on the Upper West Side.

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