Elbow Pain and Injury

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Repetitive motions like throwing and lifting, falls, and conditions including arthritis can lead to elbow pain. This can interfere with everyday activities that involve your arm. When elbow pain and swelling don’t go away with rest and ice, a medical evaluation is recommended. Duke orthopaedic specialists are experts in diagnosing and treating elbow pain and injuries. We help you get relief from your elbow pain and return to the activities and sports you enjoy.

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Our Locations

Our orthopaedic clinics are conveniently located throughout the Triangle. In-person and virtual appointments are available.

When to See an Elbow Specialist

Overuse Injuries
Sports and other activities that require the repetitive and strenuous use of the elbow joint can put stress on the tendons and ligaments that hold it together. Conditions related to overuse include:

  • Bursitis, an inflammation of a fluid-filled sac called the bursa
  • Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow, when tendons that attach to the elbow become swollen, also known as tendonitis
  • Ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) tears, common in baseball players and other athletes whose sports involve throwing
  • Little league elbow, damage to immature cartilage and painful inflammation of the growth plate

Elbow Arthritis
A previous injury or normal wear and tear over time can damage the protective cartilage in the elbow joint. People whose work or activities put extra demands on their elbow joints are more likely to develop elbow arthritis.

Traumatic Injuries

  • Sports, falls, and biking or traffic accidents can result in traumatic injuries, including elbow fracture.
  • Elbow instability usually occurs from a trauma such as a fall onto an outstretched arm. The elbow joint can become loose or lock up. You may feel a catching or clicking sensation.
  • Tendon ruptures in the elbow (such as the biceps or triceps tendons) may also result from a sudden injury.

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
Numbness or tingling in the ring finger and little finger can occur when the ulnar nerve (also known as the “funny bone” nerve) repeatedly slides out of place or is stretched from keeping the elbow bent for long periods.

When You Need Immediate Treatment

If you have elbow pain or other symptoms that haven’t improved with rest or over-the-counter pain relievers, see an orthopaedic specialist.

Duke Orthopaedic Urgent Care
Our convenient orthopaedic urgent care clinic is open seven days a week. Get fast service with no long waits and no unnecessary exposure to illness. No appointment needed; walk-ins are welcome.

Why Choose Duke

Wide Range of Nonsurgical Options
Whenever possible, elbow pain and injuries are first treated with conservative methods including rest, bracing, and physical therapy. If those are not effective, we offer additional options including injections and TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) therapies to help you pain pain relief.

Setting the Standard for Elbow Replacement
The experience level of the team is one of the most important predictors of success with elbow replacement. Duke’s orthopaedic surgeons perform many elbow replacement surgeries each year. A Duke doctor co-developed the first successful modern artificial elbow joint, which set the standard for elbow replacement. We continue to study patients' outcomes following elbow surgery to ensure they experience better quality of life.

Experienced Tommy John Surgeons
Tommy John surgery is uncommon and very specialized. Your surgical team’s level of experience is an important factor in the success of the procedure. Duke surgeons perform multiple Tommy John surgeries each year. We also use a variety of nonoperative treatments and offer specialized physical therapy for a variety of throwing injuries.

Specialized Physical Therapists
Our physical therapists specialize in elbow rehabilitation and will work with you to help restore your strength and movement following an elbow injury or elbow surgery.

Sports Medicine Specialists
Our sports medicine experts are trained to care for sports-related injuries and specialize in treating athletes of all levels. They include primary care doctors, physiatrists, physical therapists, and orthopaedic surgeons. They can help you recover from an elbow injury, prevent injury, and work with you to improve your sports performance. They help active individuals return to the activities they love.

Best Orthopaedic Hospital in North Carolina

Where you receive your care matters. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our orthopaedics program is nationally ranked, and the highest-ranked program in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2023–2024.

This page was medically reviewed on 10/28/2020 by