Common Causes of Elbow Pain

Learn about some common causes of elbow pain, including what happens when you hit your funny bone:

Common Causes of Elbow Pain

Common Causes of Elbow Pain

Elbow pain can be really frustrating. We rely on our elbows to function properly everyday, so when pain and irritation starts, it can seem overwhelming. Depending on the cause, that pain can last for hours, days, or years. This article will go over types of pain and some of the common causes of elbow pain.


This article refers to acute and chronic pain. Acute pain is sudden, sharp, and related to tissue damage. Acute pain can subside instantly or last three to six months. If acute pain isn't relieved, it can lead to chronic pain. Chronic pain continues even after an injury has healed and lasts more than three to six months. The source of chronic pain can be something identifiable, like an ongoing injury, or something unidentifiable, like when no injury is present. Chronic pain is described as an aching, deep, burning or dull feeling that carries into the extremities.

Pain Causes

Most elbow pain is caused by overuse injuries. These overuse injuries happen when tendons, muscles, or ligaments in the elbow joint become damaged over time due to repetitive motions without proper time to heal. Lateral epicondylitis and medial epicondylitis, or tennis elbow and golfer's elbow, respectively, are two of the most common elbow injuries that result from overuse. These repetitive movements are not limited to sports, and can often be caused by work habits.

Nerve irritation is another cause of elbow pain. The sensitive radial and ulnar nerves can cause pain in the elbow when irritated or injured from sudden impact or continuous pressure. The area in the elbow where the ulnar nerve runs close to the skin produces a shocking pain when bumped. This is commonly referred to as "hitting your funny bone." Bursitis and degenerative wear-and-tear can also contribute to nerve irritation, as well as causing pain or irritation on their own. Elbow pain can also be caused by a sudden impact or blow to the elbow, which can result in fractures, ligament sprains or tears, dislocation, and a variety of other conditions.