Beyond Tennis Elbow: Uncommon Signs of Elbow Issues Everyone Must Know About

3 minute read

By Topic Insight Staff

Tennis elbow may be the first elbow issue that comes to mind, but there are other elbow issues that are often overlooked. Fortunately, if you start a search online today, you can learn to spot the uncommon signs of elbow issues as they arise.

Some symptoms are subtle, while others may masquerade as different issues altogether. As our elbows are critical for daily activities, from lifting objects to typing, it’s essential to recognize less common signs and take appropriate action.

Numbness and Tingling

While numbness and tingling in the elbow region are often dismissed as a simple nerve issue, they could be indicative of more serious problems like cubital tunnel syndrome.1 This condition occurs when the ulnar nerve, which runs inside the elbow, becomes compressed or irritated.

Unlike tennis elbow, which usually causes pain on the outside of the elbow, cubital tunnel syndrome tends to cause discomfort on the inside part. If you’ve noticed numbness, tingling, or even a mild electric shock sensation along the forearm and fingers, particularly the ring and little fingers, don’t ignore these symptoms. Consult a medical professional for a thorough evaluation.

Weak Grip Strength

If you find it difficult to hold onto things or feel like your grip is weaker than usual, it might be more than just muscle fatigue. Conditions like medial epicondylitis—commonly known as “golfer’s elbow”—could be the culprit. Unlike tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow affects the tendons on the inside of the elbow, causing pain and, in some cases, weakness in the hands and wrists.

This could make even routine tasks like holding a cup or opening a jar a struggle. It’s vital to address this issue early, as ignoring it can lead to chronic discomfort and functional impairment.

Swelling and Inflammation

Swelling is another sign of an elbow issue that is often overlooked. Persistent inflammation could signal conditions like bursitis, an inflammation or irritation of the bursa—a small sac filled with lubricating fluid that reduces rubbing, friction, and irritation.2

While bursitis is generally caused by repetitive motions or pressure, it can also result from trauma, infection, or underlying conditions like arthritis. A swollen elbow that doesn’t improve with rest and over-the-counter medication is a red flag that should prompt medical evaluation.

Reduced Range of Motion

Trouble extending or flexing your arm fully? This restricted range of motion could be due to multiple issues, from muscle strain to ligament injuries or osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis of the elbow is more common among older adults and can significantly impact the arm’s ability to move freely.

Often, this limitation in movement is accompanied by a grating or cracking sound, another sign that you should not ignore. Diagnosing and treating this issue early can help in maintaining the elbow joint’s functionality over the long term.

Stiffness and Locking

If your elbow feels stiff when you wake up or “locks” in certain positions, these could be symptoms of elbow osteoarthritis or other joint issues. Sometimes the joint may even catch or lock up temporarily, making it impossible to straighten or bend it for a brief period. These symptoms can significantly impact your daily activities and quality of life, so early diagnosis and intervention are crucial.

Persistent Fatigue in the Arm

Chronic fatigue in your arm shouldn’t be quickly dismissed as a result of overwork or simple tiredness. Persistent fatigue may be a sign of a compromised nerve or circulatory issue affecting your elbow and, by extension, your entire arm.

Conditions like thoracic outlet syndrome or even peripheral artery disease could manifest as persistent arm fatigue. A thorough medical evaluation, possibly including imaging tests or nerve conduction studies, can help identify the underlying issue.

Crepitus or Crunching Sounds

Crepitus refers to the grating, crackling, or popping sounds and sensations experienced under the skin and joints.3 While it’s not always a sign of a serious medical issue, in some cases, it could point to joint surface degradation or air bubbles in the joint, often symptomatic of osteoarthritis or joint infection. If you hear a crunching sound accompanied by pain or limited movement, consider it a signal to consult a physician for further evaluation.

Find Relief Today!

Our elbows are more complex than they appear, and issues can manifest in various ways beyond the well-known symptoms of tennis elbow. From persistent arm fatigue to unexpected skin color changes, and from unsettling crunching noises to unusual warmth or bruising, these are signs you shouldn’t ignore.

Being knowledgeable about the potential signs of elbow issues is the first step toward proactive healthcare. If you notice any of these less common symptoms, take them seriously. Continue to educate yourself by searching online and consult a healthcare provider for a thorough evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment plan.

Topic Insight Staff

Contributor

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