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Why Does My Elbow Hurt When I Straighten It?

In today’s FAQ video, we answer the question “Why do I have elbow pain when I straighten my arm?” We also explain what’s behind tennis elbow or golf elbow and why it’s important to discover exactly what’s causing your pain. Watch the video below to learn what’s behind your pain from the expert physical therapists at Carter PT. Leave any questions you may have in the comments section below.

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Why Do I Have Elbow Pain When I Straighten My Arm?

Video Transcription

[Please excuse grammatical errors due to the conversational nature of the video]:

Why does my elbow hurt when I straighten it?

This is something interesting one. Well how about this: “Why does my elbow hurt when I squeeze or open something?”

Sometimes, it’s so bad that as you’re straightening it makes it painful, too. Tennis elbow is kind of like what we were talking about earlier relating to shin splints. There’s a million things that can be involved in it: everything from up in the neck to, you know, decreased range of motion at the wrist and fingers. All of which have fascial or myofascial lines that connect through where we typically have tennis elbow, which is on the outside elbow or inside elbow is called golfer’s elbow. That’s even though most people that have those things aren’t tennis players or golfers.

Just anatomically, all of the muscles on them come into what we call the wrist extensors and finger extensors. There are a ton of muscles, and they all come to this one common tendon. So it’s a broad amount of pulling all going to this tiny little tendon. So that’s one of the reasons it’s such a common place to get irritated. But again, there can be causes from the neck and midback all the way down to the fingertips that are associated with it.

Treatment approach

That’s again why, if you’re dealing with a stubborn case of tennis elbow, you need to make sure you’re seeing a good practitioner. Someone who’s not just spending five minutes evaluating it and wanting to stick a needle in it and put cortisone or something like that. These methods are not shown to be very effective across the board.

But we aim to identify all of the factors associated with this problem and let’s treat every one of them. Because otherwise the issue can become really stubborn and hard to treat.

Tendons have a pretty poor blood supply, so they just take longer to heal. If you strain a bicep or something like that, you give it a couple of days, you will feel better. But the tendons are tricky to treat just because the healing process just takes longer.

It just takes patience and a good understanding from your therapist to know that we need to load the tendon appropriately and get it to adapt. But that might take some time. But as long as you’re up front with people, I think people will get on board. Because tennis elbo is one thing that once they start to feel good at some point and they get back their activities, and they flare back up. It’s important to know that this is a process that can take some time. 

It’s one of the things that usually takes longer to treat.