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Common elbow injuries and conditions

Overview of common elbow injuries and conditions

Your elbow joint consists of bones, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, joint fluid, and cushioning structures called bursae. Injury or damage to any of these can result in elbow problems and pain. Elbow conditions are very common and typically resolve within a few weeks when treated.

Whether you have an elbow injury or would like to get tested for a condition, we can help. Find a Dignity Health doctor near you today.


The symptoms of elbow conditions and injuries include pain, tenderness, stiffness, limited range of motion, and crackling and popping sounds during movement. You may also notice swelling and warmth over and around the joint. For elbow dislocations and fractures, the joint may also look deformed.


Repetitive motion, overuse injuries, and sports injuries are common causes of many elbow conditions. These tend to be chronic and last several weeks, or come and go over time.

Less commonly, chronic diseases can lead to elbow pain. Elbow arthritis is one example of a degenerative disease of the joint, often arising as we age. Some cancers can affect the structures of the elbow joint as well. Trauma is the leading cause of dislocation and complete fractures.


Common elbow conditions and injuries that we treat at Dignity Health include:

  • Elbow arthritis
  • Elbow bursitis
  • Elbow dislocation
  • Elbow fractures
  • Elbow ligament strains and sprains
  • Elbow tendonitis, including golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow
  • Degenerative arthritis of the elbow
  • Gout
  • Infections in the elbow
  • Tumors in the elbow
  • Nerve damage or compression in the elbow

Risk factors

Most elbow conditions are the result of trauma (such as injury from a fall or automobile accident) or overuse (such as from playing sports like golf and tennis). Other causes include:

  • Occupations requiring repetitive motion of the arm, such as painting, cooking, cleaning, and product assembly
  • Sports involving throwing, catching, or repetitive arm movement such as basketball, tennis, golf, climbing, weightlifting, sailing, shooting, fencing, baseball, or football
  • Higher-impact sports such as roller derby, football, soccer, or wrestling
  • Inflammatory or autoimmune diseases, or a family history of these conditions
  • Cancer diagnosis
  • Previous elbow injuries through overuse or trauma


Preventing elbow injury revolves around reducing risk factors. Here are some ways of lowering risk:

  • Using proper protective equipment such as elbow braces when engaging in high-impact activities or repetitive motion
  • Not “pushing through” pain; stopping at the first sign of injury
  • Using proper form during sports
  • Taking breaks during manual labor work
  • Adjusting the ergonomics of working environments where possible
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Completing regular exercises to strengthen and support the muscles around the elbow joint
The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.