Elbow Nerve Pain: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment Options

Nerve pain in the elbow is a condition that can result in pain in the elbow, forearm, and hand. Causes of this pain include injury, overuse, arthritis, or other conditions. Elbow nerve pain may occur when inflammation or pressure is on one of the nerves in your arm or hand.

In this article, we will discuss the methods for preventing and treating elbow nerve pain that results in discomfort in or around the elbow joint.

What is Elbow Nerve Pain?

Nerve pain either felt or caused in or around the elbow can be classified as elbow nerve pain. An injury can compress the affected nerve to the joint, damage to surrounding tissues and nerves, or irritation from repetitive use.

Two main nerve types exist in the elbow: large deep nerves like your ulnar nerve (funny bone) and superficial nerves like your cutaneous nerves.

  • The larger nerves typically extend down to your hand, and pressure on these nerves will typically give pain that extends to a portion of the hand and fingers. The more common symptoms with compression of deeper nerves include radiating pain, loss of sensation in the fingers, muscle weakness and muscle wasting if chronic.
  • The smaller superficial nerves typically give severe symptoms like heat, sensitivity, and pain around the elbow. 


The most common cause of elbow nerve pain is trauma to the joint itself, including fractures or dislocations and repetitive strain injuries (RSIs).

In addition to these kinds of injuries, other health conditions, such as arthritis and diabetes, that affect nearby joints may also cause elbow nerve pain.

Types of Elbow Nerve Pain

Ulnar Nerve Entrapment

The ulnar nerve (funny bone) is a large nerve that runs from your neck to your hands and fingers. It passes underneath a tendon on the inside of your elbow, known as the cubital tunnel. Inflammation or swelling of a tendon on the inside of the elbow may cause the ulnar nerve to become pinched, resulting in a condition called cubital tunnel syndrome.

The most common cause of ulnar nerve entrapment is compression due to trauma such as falling on an outstretched arm. However, repetitive movements like typing, tennis, golf, or housework can also cause this condition.

Radial Tunnel Syndrome

Radial tunnel syndrome is a rare cause of elbow nerve pain. It occurs when the radial nerve becomes compressed or irritated as it passes through a narrow passage in your forearm muscles. Causes include repetitive motions like typing, playing a musical instrument or sports like tennis.

Median Nerve Injury

The median nerve is a major nerve that can be a common source of discomfort for many people in our modern world. The purpose of the median nerve is to innervate many muscles in the anterior forearm and hand, allowing for flexing, pronating, thumb opposition, and finger movements. Nerve damage can cause tingling, numbness, or weakness in these areas.

Median nerve compression is most common through the wrist via carpal tunnel syndrome. However, the nerve can be irritated anywhere along its pathway from the neck to the tips of the fingers.

Nerve conduction studies are a common diagnostic test for median nerve issues to help identify where the compression occurs.

What Causes Elbow Nerve Pain?

The elbow is a complex joint, and it’s easy for nerves in the area to become compressed or injured. Injury, overuse, surgery, tumours or cysts, accidents, existing health conditions like arthritis or diabetes, broken bones, and bone spurs can damage or compress nerves.

Symptoms of Elbow Nerve Pain

  • Elbow pain
  • Numbness and tingling in the fingers, hand, and forearm
  • Sensitivity to temperature or touch
  • Pain in the forearm or upper arm
  • Weakness in the hand, wrist, or fingers
  • Poor coordination of movements in the arm and hand

Diagnosis of Elbow Nerve Pain

Diagnosis of elbow nerve pain depends on a complete history and physical examination. A health practitioner may ask you about your symptoms, including pain and any other concerns that you may have about your elbow.

Your osteopath will also perform physical exams of the elbow joint to detect any abnormalities or signs of injury or disease. They may also refer for imaging like x-rays, MRIs, and CT scans to evaluate possible nerve damage and identify its cause.

Treatment Options for Elbow Nerve Pain

Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT)

Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment is the most common treatment option for nerve pain in the elbow. OMT aims to relieve pain and improve normal function by treating the root causes of pain, such as joint and muscle issues that could be causing your symptoms. It also helps reduce inflammation, which can lead to reduced pain.

Exercise rehabilitation

Physical therapy and exercise rehabilitation are essential in treating and resolving nerve pain. It may include activities that help improve your range of motion and strength, which can reduce pain. Your osteopath or manual therapist will create the exercise plan for you. It will include exercise specific to your injury and the goals for returning to your life.


Medications can help relieve elbow nerve pain by reducing inflammation and swelling. These include prescription and nonprescription medicines that your doctor may recommend.

Splint or brace

Splinting or bracing the elbow may help relieve pain and prevent further injury. Your osteopath can show you how to put a splint on properly, when to wear it, and what to avoid. There are various splints for treating arm and elbow conditions, including wrist-to-shoulder and forearm splints with wrist straps.

Elbow Pad

An elbow pad can relieve pain and prevent injury by being worn. Available at sporting goods stores, pharmacies, or online, these pads fit outside the elbow joint, just below the arm and are typically made of foam or gel covered with cloth or leather.

Exercises for Elbow Nerve Pain

Elbow pain can be a frustrating condition. Knowing the causes, symptoms and treatment options is essential to move forward with a plan that works best for your situation.

Nerve flossing exercise is one of the best ways to reduce pain and inflammation and improve your elbow’s range of motion. Ask your practitioner what frequency you should aim for, but we suggest one to two times daily as a good guide.

The video below is an example exercise to relieve nerve pain.


If you’re experiencing elbow nerve pain, seeking medical attention is essential. A health practitioner can help determine the cause of your symptoms and recommend a treatment plan that will work best for you. Consider consulting with a healthcare practitioner if your symptoms are severe or persistent. They will give you a better understanding of your problem and figure out the best way to get you back to enjoying your life pain-free.