Why Do I Have Pain in Elbow When Straightening Arm?

Published on: September 3, 2023
A man grabbing his painful elbow.

Do you have pain when straightening arm or performing other activities? There are two common elbow conditions that result in elbow pain when extending the arm: tennis and golfer’s elbow. Here are golfer and tennis elbow symptoms to determine if you have one of these conditions.

Tennis Elbow Symptoms

Tennis elbow, clinically known as lateral epicondylitis, is a condition that affects the outer part of the elbow, causing pain and discomfort. Tennis elbow can affect anyone who engages in repetitive arm and wrist movements. Understanding the symptoms is crucial for early diagnosis and treatment.

  • Pain on the Outer Elbow: The most prominent symptom of tennis elbow is pain in the elbow when straightening arm, specifically on the outside of the elbow. It occurs near the bony prominence of the outer elbow, known as the lateral epicondyle, where the forearm tendons attach to the bone.
  • Outer Elbow Hurts When Extended. Not only will tennis elbow cause pain in elbow when straightening arm, it is common that outer elbow hurts when extended.
  • Pain During Gripping: Individuals with tennis elbow commonly experience pain when gripping objects. This can range from holding a tennis racket or a golf club to something as simple as a coffee mug or a book. The pain may make it challenging to perform tasks that involve grasping and lifting.
  • Weakness in the Affected Arm: As tennis elbow progresses, some individuals may notice weakness in the affected arm. The pain and inflammation can affect the strength of the forearm muscles responsible for wrist extension and gripping, hindering the ability to perform various activities.
  • Morning Stiffness: Many people with tennis elbow report experiencing stiffness and discomfort in the elbow and forearm upon waking in the morning. This stiffness can make it difficult to use the affected arm effectively, particularly during the initial hours of the day.
  • Pain During Repetitive Movements: Tennis elbow symptoms often worsen during activities that involve repetitive movements of the wrist and forearm. These can include playing sports like tennis, golf, or racquetball, as well as tasks such as typing, using a screwdriver, or painting.
  • Pain When Lifting or Carrying Objects: Lifting and carrying objects, especially with the palm facing down, can exacerbate tennis elbow symptoms. The pain may be felt not only in the elbow but also radiate down into the forearm.
  • Weakness in the Hand: In some cases, tennis elbow can lead to weakness in the hand, particularly when attempting to grip or hold objects. This weakness may be more pronounced when attempting fine motor tasks, like picking up small items.

Those with tennis elbow symptoms may notice outside pain in elbow when straightening the arm, weakness in affected arm, gripping/lifting difficulties and other issues.

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Golfer Elbow Symptoms

Golfer’s elbow, medically known as medial epicondylitis, is a condition that affects the inner part of the elbow. It’s characterized by pain and discomfort, especially during gripping and wrist flexion and has similar symptoms to tennis elbow, but on the inside of the arm:.

  • Pain in inner elbow when straightening arm.
  • Gradual onset of pain, which may worsen over time.
  • Pain that worsens with gripping objects, particularly with the palm facing down.
  • Difficulty in making a strong fist.
  • Weakness in the affected hand and wrist.
  • Pain when flexing or twisting the wrist, such as when turning a doorknob.
  • Pain that radiates down the forearm.
  • Stiffness and limited range of motion in the elbow.
  • Discomfort when lifting objects, especially those with the palm facing up.
  • Pain during activities that involve repetitive wrist movements, such as golf, tennis, or racquet sports.
  • Increased pain and discomfort when performing activities that require forceful or repetitive gripping, like using tools.
  • Pain when pressing on the medial epicondyle (the bony bump on the inner side of the elbow).
  • Numbness or tingling in the fingers, although less common than pain.
  • Swelling and inflammation around the medial epicondyle.
  • Pain that may persist even at rest or during sleep in more severe cases.
  • Difficulty in shaking hands or using a computer mouse.
  • A feeling of weakness in the hand and forearm muscles.
  • Inner elbow hurts when extended.

It’s important to recognize these symptoms and seek medical attention if you suspect golfer’s elbow due to pain in inner elbow when straightening your arm or other symptoms. Early intervention and proper treatment can help alleviate pain and promote healing.

It’s important to note that the severity and duration of golfer or tennis elbow symptoms can vary from person to person. Some individuals may experience mild discomfort that resolves with rest and conservative treatment, while others may endure more persistent and debilitating pain.
A sportswoman grabbing her painful elbow.
In cases of severe symptoms, it is advisable to consult a healthcare provider, typically an orthopedic specialist or a sports medicine physician, for a proper diagnosis and a comprehensive treatment plan. Most cases of golfer or tennis elbow can be managed with non-surgical therapies.

Pain in elbow when straightening arm can be caused by tennis or golfer’s elbow, particularly during gripping, repetitive movements, and activities that involve the forearm and wrist. Early recognition of these symptoms and receiving medical care can help alleviate pain and promote healing.

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