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Learn about your severe elbow pain, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your severe elbow pain from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

Severe Elbow Pain Checker

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Your Severe Elbow Pain May Also be Known as:
Elbow extremely painful
Elbow hurts extremely
Elbow hurts severely
Elbow hurts unbearably
Elbow severely painful
Elbow unbearably painful
Extreme elbow pain
Unbearable elbow pain

Severe Elbow Pain Symptoms

The elbow is important for many daily activities and sports. As a result, severe elbow pain can lead to significant impairment. Conditions that cause severe elbow pain symptoms can involve a number of structures that are part of the elbow. Three bones come together to form the elbow joint, which allows flexion and extension as well as twisting of the forearm. Multiple muscles are connected to bony structures of the elbow via tendons. In addition, the very tip of the elbow is covered by a thin sac of fluid called a bursa, which provides cushioning for the bone. Pain in elbow structures can result from acute injuries or chronic conditions.

Symptoms that can be associated with severe elbow pain include:

Severe Elbow Pain Causes Overview

Acute injury

  • Fracture : An injury such as being hit by an object can cause a fracture of one of the three bones that make up the elbow joint.
  • Dislocation : Landing on an outstretched hand during a fall can push the bones of the elbow out of their normal positions.
  • Soft tissue injury : A tear or strain of a muscle, tendon (which connects a muscle to bone), or ligament (which connects bones to each other) can cause severe elbow pain symptoms. One example of a soft tissue injury causing elbow pain is a biceps tendon tear.

Chronic conditions

  • Arthritis : Wear and tear damage to the elbow over time or inflammatory types of arthritis can occur in the elbow, causing pain that may be severe.
  • Gout : This is a type of arthritis caused by formation of abnormal crystals can cause sudden attacks of swelling and intense pain in the elbow.
  • Bursitis : Overuse or excess pressure placed on the elbow over time can lead to inflammation of the bursa, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness.
  • Tendonitis : While the biceps tendon can be torn in an acute injury, it can also become painful due to repetitive motions over time.

Infection

  • Infected joint : An infection of the elbow joint can cause a sudden onset of severe pain, redness, and swelling.
  • Infected bursa : The elbow bursa can become infected, leading to similar symptoms as an infected joint.

Top 9 Severe Elbow Pain Causes

  1. 1.Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)

    Lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) is soreness or pain on the outside of the upper arm near the elbow.

    You can safely treat this condition on your own by resting your arm for 2-3 weeks and avoid the activity that causes your symptoms. You may also put ice on the outside of your elbow 2-3 times a day and take a pain reliever, such as ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen (Aleve) or aspirin, as needed. Contact your physician if home treatment does not relieve the pain.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    elbow pain, pain in one elbow, hand weakness, pain in the thumb side of the elbow, elbow pain from overuse
    Symptoms that always occur with tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis):
    elbow pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.Non - Specific Elbow Pain

    Elbow pain can be caused by a host of things, but is often idiopathic (without cause).

    Your elbow pain is normal and unlikely to be caused by a serious illness. You can try over the counter pain medication like Tylenol. If the pain becomes severe, see a physician.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    elbow pain, pain in one elbow
    Symptoms that always occur with non-specific elbow pain:
    pain in one elbow
    Symptoms that never occur with non-specific elbow pain:
    recent elbow injury
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  3. 3.Elbow (Olecranon) Bursitis

    Bursae are small fluid-filled sacks located around the body in strategic locations to provide a cushion and help reduce friction. Olecranon bursitis, or elbow bursitis, is an inflammation of the bursa right on the angle of the elbow, causing pain.

    You can safely treat this condition on your own. Commonly, resting the elbow, applying ice, compression, and keeping the elbow in a raised position can be helpful. Anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen (Advil) may help reduce the pain symptoms as well.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one elbow, swollen elbow, warm and red elbow swelling, elbow pain from an injury, elbow pain from overuse
    Symptoms that always occur with elbow (olecranon) bursitis:
    swollen elbow
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  4. 4.Elbow Dislocation (Radial Head Subluxation)

    Radial head subluxation is a partial dislocation of a bone in the elbow called the radius. Dislocation means the bone slips out of its normal position.

    You should visit your primary care physician within the next 24 hours. Apply an ice pack to your elbow, but do not try to straighten or change position of your arm.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one elbow, swollen elbow, difficulty moving the elbow, elbow pain from an injury, holding arm close to body because of pain
    Symptoms that always occur with elbow dislocation (radial head subluxation):
    pain in one elbow
    Symptoms that never occur with elbow dislocation (radial head subluxation):
    elbow locking
    Urgency:
    In-person visit

    Severe Elbow Pain Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having severe elbow pain.

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  5. 5.Golfer's Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis)

    Medial epicondylitis (Golfer's Elbow) is similar to it's opposite cousin (Lateral Epicondylitis- Tennis Elbow). Both are caused by the overuse of the elbow, but this one is more frequent in golfers, bowlers, archers, and weight lifters.

    You can safely treat this condition on your. Treatment is conservative (physical therapy, Ibuprofen, rest, and a brace) for 6-12 months, after which surgery might become an option.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    elbow pain, pain in one elbow, elbow pain from overuse, pain in the pinky side of the elbow
    Symptoms that always occur with golfer's elbow (medial epicondylitis):
    elbow pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  6. 6.Ulnar Nerve Entrapment of Elbow

    Ulnar Nerve Entrapment of Elbow is the compression of the ulnar nerve, causing numbness and/or weakness in the hands.

    You should visit your primary care physician. Diagnosis is made by looking at your symptoms and confirmed with a test of the nerves. Treatment depends on severity. If no weakness, splinting and physical therapy. If weakness, surgery to decompress the nerve.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    hand weakness, pain in one hand, numbness in one hand, weakness in one hand, pain in one elbow
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Brachial Plexopathy

    The brachial plexus is a complex nerve network located in the upper chest deep to the collar bone, which supplies the shoulder, arm, forearm, and hand. Damage to the brachial plexus is usually due to mechanical injury or trauma, and can interfere with normal nerve function causing numbness, pain, and/or weakness.

    You should visit your primary care physician to discuss these symptoms. It is likely the doctor will perform a thorough physical exam, and in many cases refer you to a specialist, physical therapist, or both. A professional evaluation is very important, as surgical treatment might be required for a brachial plexus nerve injury.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one arm, shoulder pain that shoots to the arm, arm weakness, numbness in one arm, shoulder pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Elbow Bruise

    A bruise is the damage of the blood vessels that return blood to the heart (the capillaries and veins), which causes pooling of the blood. This explains the blue/purple color of most bruises. Bruises of the elbow are common, often due to minor injury.

    You can treat this at home with R.I.C.E - rest (exercise as tolerated), ice (10-20 minutes at a time), compression (this is pretty optional), and elevation.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    constant elbow pain, pain in one elbow, elbow pain from an injury, recent elbow injury, swollen elbow
    Symptoms that always occur with elbow bruise:
    recent elbow injury, elbow pain from an injury, constant elbow pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  9. 9.Elbow Sprain

    An elbow sprain is an injury of the tendons or muscles of the elbow.

    You should ice and rest your elbow using the RICE method. If the pain is too intense, using NSAIDs such as Ibuprofen can relieve the pain.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    elbow pain, elbow pain from an injury
    Symptoms that always occur with elbow sprain:
    elbow pain from an injury
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

Severe Elbow Pain Treatments and Relief

Some acute injuries that cause severe elbow pain require immediate diagnosis and management to promote healing. In addition, an infection in the elbow needs to be managed urgently to prevent permanent damage.

Seek emergency treatment if:

  • You have severe pain, weakness, and/or inability to bend the elbow after an injury.
  • You have numbness or tingling in any fingers.
  • Your elbow is red, warm, and/or draining pus.
  • The elbow seems to be at an odd angle.
  • You can see part of the bone sticking out through the skin.

In some cases, even though emergency treatment isn't necessary, you may need medical evaluation. Make an appointment with your medical provider if:

  • You have previously been diagnosed with a chronic condition like arthritis and are having worsening pain.
  • You consistently have pain with certain elbow movements.
  • Your elbow pain is interfering with your ability to sleep or work.
  • You have decreased range of motion of the elbow.

Your medical provider may prescribe one or more of the following treatments, depending on the cause of your severe elbow pain:

  • Steroid injections for pain relief in arthritis or bursitis.
  • Surgical management for severe arthritis.
  • Physical therapy to help recover normal range of motion and strength after an injury.
  • Treatment for an attack of gout and medication to prevent future attacks.

Some home treatments may help with severe elbow pain.

  • If the pain occurs after an injury, try RICE treatment. Resting and Icing the elbow, as well as applying Compression (such as with an ace bandage) and Elevating the elbow to prevent or reduce swelling.
  • A heating pad may help with chronic pain.
  • Avoid placing pressure on the elbow or use an elbow pad to provide cushioning.
  • Avoid activities that exacerbate the severe elbow pain symptoms.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Severe Elbow Pain

  • Q.How long has your elbow pain been going on?
  • Q.Which of the following describes your physical fitness:
  • Q.How would you explain the cause of your elbow pain?
  • Q.Is your elbow pain constant or come-and-go?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, check our severe elbow pain symptom checker.

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Severe Elbow Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced severe elbow pain have also experienced:

    • 60% Elbow Pain
    • 20% Elbow Locking
    • 20% Difficulty Moving the Elbow
  • People who have experienced severe elbow pain had symptoms persist for:

    • 44% Over a Month
    • 18% Less Than a Week
    • 16% Less Than a Day
  • People who have experienced severe elbow pain were most often matched with:

    • 60% Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)
    • 21% Non - Specific Elbow Pain
    • 17% Elbow (Olecranon) Bursitis

Severe Elbow Pain Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having severe elbow pain.

Take a quiz