Elbow Pain

Usual Suspects:

  1. The muscles of the forearm
  2. The muscles of the upper arm
  3. The muscles of the back of the shoulder

The Imbue Pain Relief Patch temporarily relieves minor aches and pains of muscles and joints. In the diagrams below, the X’s show the locations of common trigger points (localized muscle strain), and the colored shading shows the pain pattern each trigger point produces. This pain is often several inches (or more) away from the trigger point at which it originates. If application of the Imbue Patch directly to the knee does not significantly improve your pain, applying the Imbue Pain Relief Patch at the site of strain in nearby muscles sometimes yields better results.

Elbow pain occasionally results from the elbow joint itself, where the upper arm bone (humerus) meets the two bones of the forearm (radius and ulna), in which case the Imbue Pain Relief Patch can be wrapped directly around the joint. But most of the time, elbow pain comes from strain or irritation of the muscles of the forearm, upper arm, shoulder, and once in a while, from the chest. A little time spent investigating can lead you to its source, which will yield the best results.

Elbow Pain Due to the Muscles of the Forearm

The muscles of the forearm are responsible for rotating the forearm and hand, bending the wrist and fingers, and secondarily in bending the elbow. There are several muscles in this region that can cause elbow pain (including extensor carpi radialis longus, brachioradialis, supinator, anconeus, extensor digitorum, flexor carpi ulnaris, and others). We don’t really need to bother with identifying particular muscles, though, since a thorough examination of your own forearm will quickly reveal where the problem spots are.

The muscles on the back (usually more hairy and darker skinned) surface of the forearm are mostly extensors – they function to extend the wrist and fingers back. They are the first place to check when there is pain at the outer portion of the elbow. The muscles on the inside (usually hairless and paler) surface of the forearm are mostly flexors – they function to curl the fingers and bend the wrist inward. Flexors are more likely to be involved in when there is pain at the inside aspect of the elbow. Besides referring pain to the elbow area, these muscles are also capable of producing pain throughout the forearm, wrist, hand, and fingers.

When examining your forearm, the important part is to focus on the upper portions of these muscles (closer to the elbow) and to methodically feel every inch of this area. Press firmly with your thumb, following a series of parallel lines (see diagram). Work from the elbow crease toward the fingers, then shift a bit to one side and press on the next line. Then follow the line toward your middle finger. If you find any spots that are especially tender, massage them and then apply the Imbue Pain Relief Patch.

Elbow Pain Due to the Muscles of the Upper Arm

Two of the muscles of the upper arm – triceps and biceps – are capable of referring pain down to the elbow. Let’s look at them.

Triceps Brachii:

The triceps is a three part muscle that covers the back of the upper arm (shown in yellow in the biceps diagram above). Trigger points in triceps can cause pain that radiates up the arm into the back of the shoulder, and also down to the elbow (mimicking “tennis elbow”) and forearm. Each of the X’s in this diagram indicates a common site of trigger points in the triceps (though it is always worth feeling the whole muscle thoroughly), and the shading of the same color indicates the pain/numbness pattern each trigger point is capable of producing. Any of these points can also lead to pain in the ring finger and pinky. The blue points refer pain mostly to the shoulder and outer arm. They are on the inner edge of the triceps muscle. The yellow point is often the culprit in tennis elbow. The red point, besides causing pain at the back of the upper arm, can lead to a numbing pain of the thumb side of the hand. The green point can make the elbow hypersensitive to pressure. The orange point is on the inside of the triceps muscle, sometimes closer to the front than the back (pictured here more toward the back than it tends to be) and refers pain to the back of the elbow and forearm.

Therefore, for elbow pain, we’re mainly searching in the areas of the yellow, green, or orange X’s. Trigger points at the blue and red X’s are possible, but they tend to refer pain more to the shoulder and top of the forearm. Massage any tender points you find and apply the Imbue Pain Relief Patch here.

Biceps Brachii:

Strain or trigger points in the biceps muscle (shown in red in the diagram) can cause broad pain of the upper arm, from the front of the shoulder to the crease of the elbow. It is not a common culprit in elbow pain, but worth mentioning. Press methodically in this muscle, especially midway between the shoulder and the elbow, to locate any significantly tender spots. It will take several passes to cover the whole width of the muscle. The X’s in the diagram show likely locations of trigger points. If you find one (or more), and especially if they produce pain that radiates to the elbow crease, place the Imbue Patch here. You can also massage these points, and try pressing on each tender point while slowing flexing and extending the forearm repeatedly.

Elbow Pain Due to the Muscles of the Back of the Shoulder

While somewhat less common that elbow pain due to the muscles of the upper arm and forearm, strain and irritation of the muscles of the back of the shoulder – particularly serratus posterior superior and suprispinatus – can also cause pain in the elbow. These muscles are especially important to investigate when there is discomfort at the back of the shoulder and/or your elbow pain has not improved after application of the Imbue Pain Relief Patch at the site of the pain.

Supraspinatus:

This is one of the four rotator cuff muscles. It runs from the upper surface of the shoulder blade through the shoulder joint and attaches to the top of the arm bone (humerus). It is somewhat hidden under other layers of muscle, so press deeply to feel all along the region just above a horizontal ridge of bone on the shoulder blade (the spine of the scapula). Trigger points in supraspinatus can cause aching in the shoulder, extending to the outside of the upper arm, back of the elbow, the forearm, and even the wrist. Raising the arm may be difficult and painful, and there may be popping or snapping sounds in the shoulder joint. The X’s in the diagram show these trigger points and the red shading displays the supraspinatus pain pattern.

This can be a difficult muscle to feel on your own. We recommend enlisting a friend to press deeply in this area, or to utilize a Thera Cane yourself. If you find significant tenderness here, especially if it produces pain that radiates into the arm and elbow, massage this area and apply the Imbue Pain Relief Patch here.

Serratus Posterior Superior:

In this diagram, the X shows where primary serratus posterior superior trigger points occur (on top of the ribs, just next to or slightly underneath the shoulder blade) and the red shading shows the pain it is capable of producing. Serratus posterior superior connects the spine of the upper back to the ribs underneath the shoulder blade. When it is irritated, it produces a dull ache under the shoulder blade, and can refer pain to the back of the shoulder joint and arm, the tip of the elbow, the outside of the wrist, the pinky side of the hand, the pinky, and even the chest directly in front of the muscle.

This, too, can be a difficult muscle to feel on your own. We recommend enlisting a friend to press deeply in this area, or to utilize a Thera Cane or firm ball. If using a ball (tennis ball or lacrosse ball), lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat. Place the ball under your back and roll slowly on it to apply pressure along the whole inside border of the shoulder blade. Alternatively, you can also place the ball between your back and a wall, and then slowly bend your knees to roll the ball up and down your back (see diagram). If you find significant tenderness here, especially if it produces pain that radiates into the arm and elbow, massage this area and apply the Imbue Pain Relief Patch here.

Elbow Pain Due to the Muscles of the Chest and Side

Although these muscles are the least likely muscular cause of elbow pain, if you check the other areas outlined above and do not get adequate relief from your pain, it is worth examining this region – especially if your pain is at the inner side of the elbow. The primary muscles involved are pectoralis major and pectoralis minor, both of which are found on the chest, and serratus anterior which is found at the side of the rib cage.

The red X’s in this diagram show common locations of trigger points in pectoralis major that are capable of causing pain in the arm and elbow. The blue X’s show common sites of trigger points in pectoralis minor that may cause arm and elbow pain. The green X at the side shows the general location of the most prominent serratus anterior trigger point. Rather than feeling only in the approximate locations of the X’s in this diagram, it is best to press around the whole general area where these trigger points occur. In the case of serratus anterior, this is usually about 4 to 6 inches directly below the armpit, at the very side of the rib cage, typically near the most prominent rib. If you find points that are significantly tender in this region, especially if pressing on them produces the elbow pain you have been experiencing, do some gentle massage here and apply the Imbue Pain Relief Patch.

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