Physiotherapy For Elbow Pain

Elbow pain can be a distressing and limiting condition that can significantly impact your daily life. Do you find it difficult to lift objects or perform simple tasks due to elbow pain? Are you struggling to participate in sports or activities you enjoy? Do you experience a sharp or dull pain in your elbow when gripping or bending your arm? 

These are all common symptoms of elbow pain, which can be caused by a range of factors, including overuse, injury, arthritis, or nerve compression. Whatever the cause, the pain can be frustrating and may affect your ability to perform simple tasks or participate in activities you enjoy. 

Fortunately, physiotherapy can be an effective and non-invasive treatment option for elbow pain. At Benchmark Physio, our team of experienced and highly qualified physiotherapists has the expertise and resources to help you manage and overcome your elbow pain. We explore the causes and symptoms of elbow pain, as well as the various physiotherapy techniques and exercises that can help relieve pain and improve mobility in the elbow joint.

elbow pain

Where exactly is your elbow?

The elbow is the joint where your upper arm bone (the humerus) meets your lower arm bones (the ulna and radius).

The elbow joint is surrounded by muscles, tendons, and ligaments that help keep it stable. These structures can become strained or damaged when there’s too much pressure on them.

What causes elbow pain?

Elbow pain is a common problem, and it can be caused by many different factors such as:

  • Muscle tension
  • Poor posture while working at the computer
  • Repetitive motion injuries
  • Traumatic injury from a fall or sports injury

Broken arm

A broken arm is a common injury that usually occurs when the arm hits an object or is forcefully pulled.

A broken arm can cause elbow pain, but the exact reason for it varies from person to person. The most common reason a broken arm causes elbow pain is that when the bone in the forearm breaks, it puts pressure on the nerves and blood vessels in the area, which causes pain.

Other reasons for elbow pain with a broken arm are swelling of soft tissue, muscle spasms, and nerve damage.

Elbow bursitis

Bursitis is a condition that causes pain, swelling, and stiffness of the bursa. A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion between bones, muscles, tendons, and joints to reduce friction.

The most common cause of elbow bursitis is repetitive arm motions or trauma to the elbow joint. This can happen when you frequently use your arm in the same position for an extended period or when you have an injury to your elbow from using too much force.

Here are some common symptoms of elbow bursitis:

    • Swelling and pain around your elbow
    • Warmth and discolouration (these indicate the bursitis is induced by infection)

If elbow bursitis is left untreated, it can lead to complications such as arthritis in your elbow joint.

Elbow dislocation

Elbow dislocation is a condition in which the head of the elbow bone pops out of its joint. Here are the most common causes of elbow dislocation:
  • Trauma to the arm or shoulder, such as a fall or a car accident.
  • Falling on an outstretched arm.
  • When the arm is pulled backwards forcefully.
  • Falling onto the hand with the palm facing down.
The severity of this injury depends on how much force was applied during the incident. When the elbow is dislocated, the pain is caused by the ligaments being stretched and torn. This causes damage to the cartilage and other tissues around the joint. Elbow dislocation may lead to permanent damage and pain in some cases if not treated immediately.
athlete in singlet showing his shoulders
vector illustration of golfers elbow

Golfer's elbow

Also known as medial epicondylitis, Golfer’s elbow is a painful condition caused by inflammation in the tendons connecting the forearm to the elbow. Applying repetitive stress to the tendons in the forearm can cause it to swell and become inflamed, which induces pain in the elbows. The pain, which usually starts gradually at the elbows, can sometimes extend to the forearm or wrist. It can be made worse by gripping objects with your hands or using your arms for repetitive tasks such as chopping vegetables. These are some symptoms of Golfer’s elbow:
  • Pain in your forearm or wrist
  • Reduced grip strength
  • Feel pain when you’re trying to make a fist
  • Pain on the inner part of the elbow

Elbow pain from osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a condition that causes pain, stiffness, and limited movement in the joints. It occurs when the cartilage that protects the ends of bones wears down over time.

Osteoarthritis causes elbow pain because it slowly damages the cartilage and bones that protect the elbow joint.

The most common symptom of osteoarthritis is pain in or around the joint.

Osteochondritis dissecans

Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) is a condition in which a small part of the bone attached to the cartilage of a joint dies due to restricted blood flow.

The causes of the disrupted blood flow to the tiny fragment of bone in OCD are still unknown. However, it leads to that fragment of the bone dying and breaking loose from the other parts of the structure, causing pain and hindering joint motion if it gets stuck in between other bones.

These are some common symptoms of OCD in the elbow joint:

  • Persistent pain
  • Tenderness and swelling around the joint
  • Locked joint (stick to one position) if the loose piece of bone gets stuck between the elbow structure
  • Weakening joint
  • Reduced range of motion

These symptoms can be efficiently managed with early elbow pain treatment. A physiotherapist will recommend gentle range-of-motion exercises, muscle-strengthening routines, and techniques to mitigate the risk of further complications.

man suffering from elbow pain
asian woman suffering from pain on her hands

Rheumatoid arthritis in elbows

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune and inflammatory condition. If you’re suffering from RA, your immune system will attack the healthy cells in your body by mistake. This causes inflammation in the affected parts of the body. RA primarily affects the tissues in the joints, usually several joints at one time, but it commonly occurs in the elbows, wrists, and knees. It causes the tissues at the joint to become inflamed and damaged. Depending on the severity of the injury, RA can cause long-lasting or chronic pain, instability, and deformity. Here are some common symptoms of RA at the elbow joint:
  • Pain, tenderness, and stiffness at several joints, not just at the elbow
  • Weight loss
  • Tiredness or fatigue

Elbow sprains

An elbow sprain is a tear or stretch of one or more ligaments in the elbow. It can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness.

An elbow sprain is usually caused by an injury to the elbow, such as a fall on an outstretched arm, a direct hit to the elbow, or sudden arm rotation.

Elbow sprain symptoms include:

  • Pain at the front of the elbow when bending your arm
  • Pain and stiffness in your forearm
  • A feeling that your elbow is unstable
  • Bruising on or around your elbow joint

Tennis elbow

Tennis elbow is a form of tendonitis. It inflames the tendons that join the forearm muscles on the outer part of the elbow. This can be caused by repeated motions and playing racquet sports like tennis and badminton.

The pain that results from tennis elbow can primarily be felt on the outer part of your elbow and your wrist, making everyday tasks like these daunting:

  • Shaking hands
  • Gripping an object
  • Turning a doorknob
  • Holding a coffee cup

How to treat tennis elbow?

Treatment for tennis elbow may involve rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication to reduce pain and swelling. Physiotherapy can also be beneficial, with a focus on exercises to strengthen the muscles in the forearm and improve flexibility and range of motion. Other techniques such as manual therapy, dry needling, ultrasound, and electrotherapy may also be used to help reduce pain and improve function. It’s important to consult with a qualified physiotherapist who can assess your specific condition and develop a personalised treatment plan to help you recover from tennis elbow.
What is tennis elbow and how to diagnose it?

Olecranon stress fractures​

An olecranon stress fracture is an injury to your elbow that can happen when you overextend your arm, causing the bone to break at the point where it is attached to the arm. This injury can also occur if an object hits or bumps your elbow.

This type of fracture is common in people who have weak muscles in their arms or who participate in contact sports like wrestling or rugby. It’s also more common in people who use their arms for repetitive tasks.

The symptoms of an olecranon fracture include:

  • Pain in the arm and elbow
  • Tenderness at the elbow
  • Swelling of the arm
  • Inability to straighten the elbow

Swift elbow pain treatment can aid in a speedy recovery of olecranon stress fracture. Physiotherapy will incorporate pain management, gentle exercises to maintain joint mobility, and progressive strength-training routines.

Throwing injuries in the elbow

A throwing injury is a type of injury that occurs to the arm and shoulder. The throwing motion stresses the elbow joint, leading to pain, swelling, or stiffness.

Throwing injuries can include painful conditions like bursitis, tendonitis, and ligament damage. This injury is common among athletes in throwing sports like softball, baseball, and volleyball. However, anyone who uses the wrong techniques and improper mechanics to throw things forcefully is at risk of suffering this condition.

Common symptoms of throwing injuries are:

  • Weakness of muscles at the shoulder and elbow
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Reduced throwing velocity and control
  • Swelling and tenderness at the point of injury
Physiotherapy for elbow pain resulting from throwing injuries will involve techniques to reduce inflammation and exercises to strengthen the arm. Crucially, physiotherapy also educates on correct throwing mechanics to minimise undue elbow stress, effectively reducing future injury risk.

Ulnar nerve entrapment at the elbow

Ulnar nerve entrapment at the elbow happens when you keep your elbow fully bent over a prolonged period or when the nerve suffers direct pressure from you leaning on the wall or any other solid surface.

The ulnar nerve is responsible for transmitting signals to the muscles on the forearm and hand. It is also in charge of inducing sensation in the fourth and fifth fingers of the hand, a part of the palm and under the forearm. So, when the ulnar nerve is trapped, it affects all these areas on your hand.

These are some common signs and symptoms of ulnar nerve entrapment:

  • Tenderness or weakness in the hand
  • Tingling sensation in the palm, fourth and fifth fingers
  • Extra sensitive to cold
  • Tenderness at the elbow

Manage these symptoms by opting for elbow physiotherapy in Singapore. Therapeutic strategies can include nerve-gliding exercises, postural corrections, and techniques to avoid putting pressure on the nerve.

Diagnosing elbow pain

If you suffer from persistent elbow pain for over three days, you should seek professional help. Health professionals are equipped with the knowledge and proper tools to identify the source of your pain and provide a suitable treatment for fast recovery.

These are the visual tests commonly used by physicians to identify the cause of your elbow pain:

  • X-ray that uses radiation to capture the image of your bones.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan that uses radio waves and a magnet to develop visuals of your bones, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues.
  • Computerised tomography (CT) scan that uses a computer and x-rays to develop three-dimensional visuals of your bones and tissues.
  • Electromyography (EMG) tests your muscles and looks for nerve injuries.
  • Biopsy of the bursa fluid
Treatment for elbow pain varies according to the cause and symptoms. Here are some standard treatment options to treat elbow pain:
  • Ice-pack is used to reduce inflammation and help to relieve minor pain.
  • Medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), painkillers, and muscle relievers relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
  • Physiotherapy helps to stretch the muscles and tendons of your elbow to promote flexibility. Strength can be improved via customised elbow strengthening exercises.
  • Elbow braces apply pressure on the forearm muscle and reduce stress on the injured elbow tendon.
  • Steroid injections relieve pain and minimise inflammation.
  • Elbow padding to protect the bony extremities of the elbow joints.

Why choose Benchmark Physio for elbow physiotherapy treatment in Singapore?

At Benchmark Physio, we are committed to delivering the highest quality of care to our patients seeking elbow physiotherapy treatment in Singapore. Our team of experienced and skilled physiotherapists utilises evidence-based techniques to assess and treat elbow pain, tailoring each treatment plan to meet the unique needs and goals of each patient. 

We deliver effective and efficient treatments to help our patients achieve optimal outcomes. Our focus on patient-centred care and dedication to ongoing education and training ensures that we provide the most up-to-date and effective treatment options available. Apart from physiotherapy for elbow pain, we also offer neck pain treatment, and frozen shoulder treatment, amongst others. Browse our full range of services

Our 45-minute physiotherapy consultation sessions cost $190, and home physiotherapy of the same duration costs $250. Learn more about our fees now.

Read our FAQs to find out more or book a session with us to have your condition reviewed.

Meet Our Physiotherapist

Ng Hong Kai, an experienced physiotherapist, has carefully reviewed the information on this page.

hong-kai's profile photo

Clinic Director and Chief Physiotherapist​​

  • Master of Clinical Physiotherapy (Musculoskeletal), Curtin University (Australia)
  • Master of Physiotherapy, University of Sydney (Australia)
  • Bachelor of Applied Science (Exercise & Sports Science), University of Sydney (Australia)
  • Member of Australian College of Physiotherapists and Australian Physiotherapy Association
  • Full registration with Allied Health Professions Council, Singapore, and Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency
  • GEMt Advanced Dry Needling Practitioner

Hong Kai has been practising musculoskeletal physiotherapy for more than a decade. He is the first Singaporean to achieve dual credentials as both an APA Titled Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist and a tertiary trained Exercise Scientist.

Hong Kai's broad and extensive skillset allows him to create solutions that are simple, effective and tailored to a client’s musculoskeletal needs. His beliefs in continuing education and self improvement led him to complete his Masters in Clinical Physiotherapy (Musculoskeletal), where he had a chance to participate in formal research into knee osteoarthritis under the supervision of world renowned researcher and physiotherapist Prof Peter 0′ Sullivan. 

Hong Kai has experience treating a variety of musculoskeletal conditions, with a specific focus on addressing lower back, neck, shoulder and knee pain.

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