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What Are the Causes of Bilateral Elbow Pain?

author image Martin Hughes
Martin Hughes is a chiropractic physician, health writer and the co-owner of a website devoted to natural footgear. He writes about health, fitness, diet and lifestyle. Hughes earned his Bachelor of Science in kinesiology at the University of Waterloo and his doctoral degree from Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Ore.
What Are the Causes of Bilateral Elbow Pain?
Numerous conditions can cause bilateral elbow pain. Photo Credit BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

According to MayoClinic.com, elbow pain, including bilateral elbow pain -- simultaneous pain in both elbows -- can be caused by problems with the bones in your elbow joints or the muscles and tendons surrounding your elbows. Bilateral elbow pain may also be caused by trauma and certain medical conditions, as well as any condition or injury that damages the network of nerves, blood vessels and ligaments surrounding your elbows.

Olecranon Bursitis

Olecranon bursitis is a common cause of bilateral elbow pain. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, or AAOS, a bursa -- a fluid-filled sac located between bones and soft tissue -- helps decrease friction between your tissues during movement. Your olecranon bursa is located at the tip of your elbow, between the loose skin and the bones of your elbow. In most cases, your olecranon bursa is flat. However, if it becomes irritated or inflamed, a condition known as bursitis can manifest. Possible causes of olecranon bursitis include traumatic injury or prolonged pressure to the tip of the elbow, bacterial infection of the bursa and certain medical conditions. Common symptoms associated with olecranon bursitis include elbow swelling, pain at the back of the elbow and decreased elbow joint active range of motion.

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Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, can cause pain in both elbows. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, or NIAMS, states that osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, and is especially common among older individuals. Bilateral elbow osteoarthritis occurs when the surface of your elbow joints, which are covered with cartilage, becomes worn or damaged. The most common cause of elbow osteoarthritis is a previous injury, such as a fracture or dislocation. In some individuals, elbow osteoarthritis is caused by age-related joint cartilage degeneration. Although osteoarthritis usually affects your body's weight-bearing joints, such as the hip and the knee, your elbow can be affected too. Common signs associated with osteoarthritis include elbow pain that is worse with elbow movement and decreased elbow joint active range of motion.


According to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, or ASSH, elbow fractures are usually caused by falling onto outstretched arms, direct blunt-force trauma to the elbows or elbow twisting injuries. In many cases, other injuries -- such as ligament sprains, muscle strains and elbow dislocations -- accompany an elbow fracture. Common symptoms associated with elbow fractures include pain, swelling, bruising, and stiffness in and around your elbows. You may hear an audible snap or pop in your elbow or elbows at the time of injury. Other common signs associated with elbow fractures include an inability to straighten your elbow, tenderness when your elbow is touched, numbness in one or more of your fingers and pain when your elbow joints are moved. In most cases, your elbow will be temporarily immobilized in a cast or splint following your injury to speed the healing of injured tissues.

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