— Not an actual patient/physician

When to Discuss Elbow Pain with Your Doctor

If you’re unsure whether or not your elbow pain warrants a conversation with your doctor, here are a few reasons it might be time to call.

It can be scary mentioning your elbow pain to your doctor. Elbow pain can gradually develop over time; other times it can occur after a trauma or fall. Any significant pain or swelling after an injury or fall deserves a visit to the doctor for an X-ray and physical exam. With slow onset elbow pain, absent a significant injury, some surgeons prefer that patients visit sooner rather than later so they can ‘nip it in the bud’ before it becomes a chronic problem.   

Whether the pain has been occurring for a few days, weeks, months or even years, here are a few signs that it may be time to start a conversation with your doctor.

  • Your pain interferes with normal daily activity such as putting on your clothes or reaching into the back seat of a car
  • Your pain is worsening with time
  • Your range of motion and ability to reach is decreasing
  • Your pain interferes with your ability to enjoy recreational activities that you once enjoyed such as golf or gardening
  • You feel your elbow catching or popping
  • Your elbow strength has decreased
  • Medication isn’t providing enough relief
  • The pain prevents you from sleeping

If you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms, talking to your doctor is a good first step. Your primary care doctor may then refer you to an orthopedic surgeon to determine the cause of the elbow pain and the best treatment steps to take moving forward. Discuss the benefits as well as risks of each treatment with your doctor. 

Depending on the specific condition of the joint, they may recommend less invasive treatment options at first. Successful surgical options are available for patients who don’t benefit from these less invasive, conservative treatments. These surgeries include tendon repair, nerve surgery, elbow arthroscopic surgery, and elbow replacement.

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This article was reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Seth Gamradt, paid Zimmer Biomet consultant.

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