How are Elbow and Forearm Pain Related? (with pictures)

Ken Black
Ken Black
The elbow joint.
The elbow joint.

Elbow pain and forearm pain are most commonly caused by inflammation of the tendon that connects the bones in or near the elbow to the muscle in the forearm. Both areas have the same tendon, so pain anywhere in that tendon may be interpreted as both elbow and forearm pain. The actual problem may be more localized toward the muscle or the elbow, but the pain often extends to other nearby locations.

Tennis elbow is a condition resulting from the overuse of the wrist and forearm.
Tennis elbow is a condition resulting from the overuse of the wrist and forearm.

The most common cause of elbow and forearm pain is tendinitis, sometimes called tennis elbow or golfer's elbow, depending on which side of the elbow is affected. If the pain is felt on the outside of the elbow, it is commonly called lateral epicondylitis, or tennis elbow. Elbow and forearm pain on the inner elbow is known as medial epicondylitis, also known as golfer's elbow. The treatment remains very similar in both cases.

The same tendon operates in the forearm and elbow.
The same tendon operates in the forearm and elbow.

The forearm is not always subject to pain but often can be. Those who experience pain in the forearm may or may not have a more severe case of tendinitis. The pain the individual experiences may ultimately be a function of the use of the arm. Some people may use their arms in ways that are more prone to cause elbow and forearm pain. Pronation, for example, which is simply turning the lower arm such as when using a screwdriver, could cause more forearm pain than simply extending the arm.

It is important to remember that pain both in the elbow and in the forearm typically means the problem is not related to either the muscle or the bones. If the problem were related to one of those other areas, the pain would likely be limited to one location. Doctors will first suspect tendinitis because of the presence of pain in both locations. On the other hand, presence of pain in just one of those locations does not rule out tendinitis.

In most cases, elbow and forearm pain can be remedied without surgery, as long as the arm remains rested and relaxed. If surgery is required, the pain usually goes away nearly immediately, though recovery from surgery may take a little longer. If pain in both areas is connected to the tendon, it should stop when the surgeon repairs the area.

Only a medical professional can accurately diagnose the root cause of elbow and forearm pain. If the pain increases over time, or lasts longer than a few days, it is best to consult a physician. If possible, someone suffering elbow and forearm pain should try to avoid activities that aggravate the condition, such as recreational sports.

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    • The elbow joint.
      The elbow joint.
    • Tennis elbow is a condition resulting from the overuse of the wrist and forearm.
      Tennis elbow is a condition resulting from the overuse of the wrist and forearm.
    • The same tendon operates in the forearm and elbow.
      The same tendon operates in the forearm and elbow.