Tendonitis In The Elbow | Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

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Tendonitis in the elbow is a common ailment that affects many people. Whether the condition is from daily activities, or is work-related, living with it can be painful and uncomfortable. The good news is, the condition is treatable. Tendonitis is also preventable with simple lifestyle changes.

In this article:

  1. What is Elbow Tendonitis?
  2. Elbow Tendonitis Causes
  3. Elbow Tendonitis Symptoms
  4. When to Spot Symptoms of Tendonitis in the Elbow
  5. Elbow Tendonitis Treatment
  6. Ways to Prevent Elbow Tendonitis

What You Need To Know About Tendonitis In The Elbow

What is Elbow Tendonitis?

Elbow tendonitis is a condition where the tendon, which connects the muscle to the bone, becomes irritated or inflamed. When these thick fibrous cords become irritated, it usually results in pain and tenderness around the joint. Tendonitis can occur in any joint in the body. It most often occurs in the shoulder, wrists, knees, heels, and elbows. Tendonitis is often referred to by a different name depending on where the ailment occurs.

  • Tennis elbow
  • Golfer’s Elbow
  • Pitcher’s Shoulder
  • Swimmer’s Shoulder
  • Jumper’s Knee

Elbow Tendonitis Causes

Elbow tendonitis sometimes occurs due to a sudden or severe injury to the area. More often, tendonitis happens from repeated motion of the area over a period of time. Motions of the elbow for work, for sports, or for hobbies can put a strain on the tendons. This is why using the proper technique when working or playing sports to place the least amount of stress on the area is important. There are risk factors associated with a person’s likelihood to develop tendonitis. These include their age, type of work functions, and sports they take part in.

  • Age – As the body ages, it loses flexibility in the joints. Less flexibility makes them more likely to suffer injury.
  • Work activities – People are more likely to suffer from tendonitis if their job requires functions that put stress on the elbow. Activities such as repetitive motion, unusual positioning, repeated overhead reaching, overexertion, or vibrations.
  • Sporting activities – Sports are often linked to cases of elbow tendonitis. Some sports that are more likely to result in this type of injury are basketball, tennis, golf, bowling, and swimming.

Elbow Tendonitis Symptoms

Since elbow tendonitis usually occurs over time, the symptoms may get more uncomfortable and painful more slowly. Most of the symptoms associated with elbow tendonitis will occur around the area where the tendon attaches to the bone. Some of the symptoms most commonly found in cases of tendonitis include:

  • Pain or dull ache when moving the joint – This can be along the forearm or the inside of the elbow and gets worse with certain movements.
  • Swelling around the joint area – When inflammation occurs there may be swelling around the area especially after movement.
  • Stiffness or movement difficulty – The elbow can be stiff, and it can become difficult to make a fist. Stiffness can also be worse upon waking.
  • Weakness of the arm and the wrist – Tendonitis in your elbow can cause weakness both in the forearm and wrist making holding things difficult.
  • Numbness, tingling, or warmth around the elbow or along the arm – These sensations can occur at the elbow or radiate down the arm and to the fingers.
  • A lump around the area – A lump can develop around the elbow or along the forearm as inflammation becomes worse.
  • A grating feeling – This will occur when the tendon moves or twists and can become awkward and uncomfortable.

When to Spot Symptoms of Tendonitis in the Elbow

The symptoms of elbow tendonitis can be subtle but will most often become clear when performing such common activities as:

  • Squeezing a ball
  • Swing a club or racket
  • Shaking hands
  • Turning knobs
  • Lifting free weights
  • Picking up items palm down
  • Flexing the wrist

If signs and symptoms of tendonitis are present a trip to the doctor is necessary for a physical exam and imaging tests. It is important to address issues of tendonitis as failure to treat the condition can result in a ruptured tendon. If the tendon does rupture, you will need surgery to fix it. A doctor can also rule out other conditions that could be causing it. This includes hypothyroidism and degenerative conditions.

Elbow Tendonitis Treatment

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Treatment for elbow tendonitis involves a combination of physical therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. Surgery is a possibility for severe cases. Goals of treatment are often to reduce pain and inflammation.

While many people would immediately resort to medication when they experience tendonitis in the elbow, managing pain and inflammation can be done without the use of chemicals. If there’s no immediate danger to the elbow, the patient may want to explore organic remedies to reduce pain.

Home Remedies and Lifestyle Changes

Many cases of tendonitis can show relief through home remedies and lifestyle changes. Those who want to stay away from synthetic drugs would benefit from these 4 steps. To treat elbow tendonitis at home, there are four steps:

  • Rest – Limit activities that can cause swelling to become worse. Tendonitis will not get better by trying to work through it. Rest is vital to the healing process.
  • Ice – Icing the area can help relieve pain, spasms, and swelling. Ice should be applied to the affected area for 20 minutes several times per day.
  • Compression – Compressing the area with a wrap or elastic bandage can limit motion, reducing swelling.
  • Elevation – Elevating the affected area above the heart can aid in healing and keep swelling down.

Medications for Treatment

For a more severe case, however, doctor-prescribed medication may be needed. There are three primary choices that a doctor will recommend for tendonitis including:

  • Pain relievers – Pain relievers often prescribed are anti-inflammatories such as naproxen and ibuprofen to relieve discomfort. There are also anti-inflammatory creams that can provide relief.
  • Corticosteroids – In severe cases, doctors may inject a patient with corticosteroids for pain relief though this is not recommended for symptoms that last over three months. Repeated injections can weaken the tendon.
  • Platelet-rich plasma – The platelets in blood have healing properties. The doctor will take blood from the patient, spin it to separate the platelets and inject it into the tendon to relieve irritation.

Other Procedures

When home remedies or medication do not work to manage the pain, a doctor may recommend other options.

  • Physical therapy – Some patients with tendonitis may benefit from physical therapy. It helps to stretch and strengthen the muscles and tendons. It will often be the first treatment that a doctor recommends and works well in many cases.
  • Dry needling – Dry needling involves putting small holes into the affected tendon to stimulate the healing process.
  • Ultrasonic treatment – A special device removes the scar tissue around the elbow using ultrasonic waves.
  • Surgery – When other options don’t work, or the condition is severe a doctor may repair the damage surgically.

Ways to Prevent Elbow Tendonitis

For those at a higher risk of developing tendonitis, there are ways to prevent the injuries from occurring or reduce the severity if it does occur.

  • Take it easy – Don’t put excessive strain on the tendons especially for a long period.
  • Vary exercise – Mix up exercise routines so specific tendons and joints do not suffer stress.
  • Use proper techniques – Make sure to perform any repetitive functions with the proper safeguards and use the proper technique.
  • Stretch often – Stretching before and after exercising or sports can reduce the risk of developing tendonitis.
  • Practice good workplace health – An ergonomic workspace can keep arms and joints at the proper position. This will reduce stress during repetitive motion tasks.


To help relieve tendonitis in the elbow, these exercises from ExercisesForInjuries can be done at home: 

Tendonitis in the elbow can cause severe discomfort and complications if not addressed. Yet, through proper diagnosis and management, treatment of the symptoms is possible. By using proper work practices and preparing the body before exercise, it is possible to reduce the risk of getting elbow tendonitis.

Keep visiting Dr. Seeds Health to know more information about treating tendonitis in the elbow and other illnesses in the best way possible. Share your questions in the comments section below. 

Up Next: Reducing Stress

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