Why Is It Painful Every Time I Move My Elbow?

A man holding his elbox outstretched to the physician to show him where the pain is coming from.

Why Is It Painful Every Time I Move My Elbow?

Elbow pain, while not as common as knee pain, can be equally debilitating. It can render you unable to perform many crucial movements that involve your arm, such as flexing, extending, lifting, and reaching for objects.

Elbow pain has various potential causes: it can be the result of a degenerative condition, a one-time injury due to a fall or direct blow, or a repetitive strain injury. Outlined below are some of the possible reasons for elbow pain as well as the other symptoms that can occur with it.

Elbow Dislocation

An elbow can get dislocated when any of the bones comprising the joint is forced out of alignment. This typically happens when you land on an outstretched hand.

Pain brought on by an elbow dislocation can be severe and often accompanied by an obvious deformity, instability, inability to move the elbow, swelling, bruising, and inflammation.

Elbow Fracture

This refers to a break in the pointy segment of bone in the elbow. An elbow fracture is often a result of trauma, such as from falling on an outstretched hand or direct blow (such as during a contact sport or vehicle collision).

Pain associated with an elbow fracture is usually sudden and intense and can be accompanied by tenderness, swelling, bruising, and the inability to straighten the joint.

Elbow Strain and Sprain

These two injuries may sound alike, but they are not one and the same. The difference is that a strain involves an injury to a muscle or tendon, while a sprain refers to the stretching or tearing of a ligament.

Elbow strain and sprain can have similar symptoms, such as pain accompanied by swelling, bruising, warmth, and redness in and around the elbow as well as limited range of motion. As such, it is imperative to see an orthopedic doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)

Tennis elbow occurs when the tendons responsible for bending your wrist away from your palm get inflamed. The inflammation is often caused by repetitive movement of the forearm muscles.

If you have tennis elbow, you will often experience pain that may radiate into your forearm or wrist, especially when you bend or lift your arm. The pain, which is typically accompanied by weakness, can make twisting your forearm and gripping small objects difficult.


Arthritis of the elbow occurs when the cartilage gets damaged or worn as a result of wear and tear (aging or repetitive activities), or a previous injury, such as a dislocation or a fracture. Osteoarthritis, which is the most common type of arthritis that affects the elbow, can cause pain, stiffness, warmth, swelling, and restricted joint movement.

Seeking Treatment for Your Elbow Pain

If you think you’ve fractured or dislocated your elbow, go immediately to the nearest emergency room. For pain, swelling, and other potential symptoms of non-emergency musculoskeletal problems that don’t respond to basic remedies, see your orthopedic doctor for a comprehensive evaluation.

Depending on the cause and severity of your elbow pain, your orthopedic doctor may recommend any or a combination of the following treatment modalities:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Physical therapy
  • Braces or immobilization
  • Regenerative medicine (platelet-rich plasma therapy)
  • Steroid injections
  • Elbow padding
  • Surgery

Top-Notch Orthopedic Care in Crested Butte and Gunnison, Colorado

If you’re in search of a trusted orthopedic doctor in the Crested Butte or Gunnison area in Colorado, visit us here at gO Orthopedics. Dr. Rhett Gregg and Dr. Blake Clifton, our board-certified orthopedic surgeons, specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of the gamut of musculoskeletal problems that affect the hand, wrist, and elbow. Just as our providers have helped scores of men, women, and children in the communities we serve, they can help you successfully break free from the pain and movement limitations imposed by your condition or injury.

Schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic experts today. Contact our staff at (970) 349-5103 (our Crested Butte office) or (970) 641-8899 (our Gunnison office). We look forward to serving you!

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