If you have pain in your elbow, shooting pain in the elbow, or pain going down your arm, this does not always mean you have a pinched nerve! Most elbow pains are not an elbow problem and it is never isolated to just the elbow. In fact, elbow pains can be due to issues within the elbow joint or pain from the neck or wrist!
What Causes Pinched Nerve in Elbow?
Before we get into the potential causes let’s briefly discuss the anatomy of this area to help understand your pain better. The elbow joint is made up of 3 bones:
- Humerus (arm bone)
- Radius (forearm bone on the thumb side)
- Ulna (forearm bone on the pinky finger side)
The joint where the ulna connects to the humerus is a hinge joint and is where flexion and extension at the elbow occur. Flexion is the movement of flexing your biceps muscle and extension is the opposite. Then you have the pronation and supination when the palm faces toward the floor and towards the ceiling.
The muscles attached to the elbow come from both the arm above and the forearm below where they connect to the wrist. This means any ‘malfunction’ in the shoulder and wrist will impact the elbow and in almost all cases I treat, it is all due to the use of our wonderful digital devices. Self check yourself here to see how your elbow pain is supported by the misuse of your devices. The video below will explore how even the size of your keyboard makes a difference.
A true pinched nerve is caused by direct impact of a nerve typically due to a space occupying lesion then there are the ‘imposters’. Read my blog “ What is a Pinched Nerve” to understand how to tell the difference.
Your elbow and how it works are directly influenced by the neck and its dysfunction feeds neck issues. Once the problem to the immediate area is addressed, the quality control work has to be done to assure the now ‘properly functioning’ part works with the other body parts by ‘chiming in’ and ‘phasing out’ in movement and action as you go about doing your movement.
Can A Pinched Nerve in the Elbow Cause Neck Pain?
You don’t have to be a tennis player to get elbow pain! For example, if you type every day, and you’ve been doing it for a long enough time, the repetitive activity will result in decreased wrist mobility, especially if you have bad ergonomics. This limited wrist mobility impacts your elbow and shoulder. For instance, when the wrist has restriction in movement, instead of moving the wrist, you move your elbow to shift the weight over the hand to flatten the hand as an example. Over time, this becomes the ’new’ route and the pattern of movement of the body parts to flatten the hand. How many times a day would you say you need to have the palm of your hand straight?!! The biological patterns of hand movement in this example become pathological. Certain muscles get overworked while certain ones don’t get a chance to even ‘chime in’.
The map of your movement in the brain called Homunculus becomes modified so even if your let’s say injury to the wrist heals, the modified pattern becomes your routine pattern. There are nerves that go through the elbow to go down the forearm and to the wrist. There are nerves that are between the shoulder joint and elbow. In this example, the ‘modified’ movement of the elbow jeopardizes the integrity of all of these nerves. So an injury led to the movement modification, which led to malpositioning and misalignment of the elbow, pressing on the surrounding nerves. All of these nerves originate from the neck so to take the irritation away, the neck goes forward, bends slightly to the side, and/or rotates to relieve you of pain. This is what is occurring subconsciously!
It is very common to have an elbow problem with issues originating from other areas, which is why it is absolutely important to be thorough in assessing the problem. Through Postural Neurology and Developmental Kinesiology, we are able to see where the map of movement is modified, and how that impacts the movement pattern. The next question is how do you fix the pinched nerve in the elbow.
How to Fix Pinched Nerve in Elbow
Pain, tension, tight muscles, weak muscles, and just about every chronic musculoskeletal issue are a result of dysfunctional movement. We are using our bodies incorrectly because the human body is not designed to sit behind a computer for 8+ hours every day for example; we are meant to move. If you are playing tennis, you may call it ‘Tennis Elbow’ but it is not the game that caused the pain in your elbow. We need to look at these things differently.
To fix the problem we need to:
- Eliminate or modify the activity that may have contributed to the pain.
- Use Postural Neurology to find out what portion of the blueprint of movement is modified. This is through Postural Neurology.
- Then we go through the ‘baby’ moves- developmental kinesiology moves, to rehabilitate not only the weak and tight muscles but bring back the proper patterns of movement. You see, all babies, regardless of the differences, move the same way and go through the same developmental stages; that is because we are wired that way. If we know how that is and can assess how you are, we can see where the problem resides.
Sounds simple and yet, we are not doing this. Why? Because we have found ourselves comfortable with the routines and no health condition ever needs a ‘routine’ approach. If a ‘routine’ approach worked, there would never be any chronic musculoskeletal issues and we would fix the problems on the first occurrence. My blog: “ The 3 Must Do’s in the Treatment Of Pinched Nerve” explains this in detail.
Pinched Nerve in Elbow Exercises
The best and safest exercises to rehab any musculoskeletal issues are the ones done by babies. After all, there is no gym, no weight, no bands, no straps, and yet all babies go from being fully dependent to becoming independent with their movements. Functionally, the elbow works in conjunction with the wrist and shoulder joints to perform movements. Here is what an exercise addressing the dysfunction in these areas following the concepts of developmental kinesiology looks like.
As we know, limited joint mobility is one of the many things that arise from moving dysfunctionally. The exercise below is a great way to stretch muscles that have become short and tight while allowing your brain to reconnect the coordinated movement between the shoulder stabilizers, wrist, and elbow. Why is working on those parts necessary if the issue is in the elbow? Because they are connected. We need to not only address the cause of the problem but the feeders of the cause of the problem.
If you get anything out of this blog or all my other blogs, it ought to be that focusing on pain and using pain as the gauge for health is the biggest mistake. When looking at function, restoring function and working toward retaining the restored function will always produce the best health results.
If you want more exercises like these that stretch the tight, strengthen the weak, decrease pain, improve posture, and restore functional movement all in one exercise you should visit my Youtube Channel with hundreds of exercises like these as well as an Ergonomic Playlist with everything you need to make sure you are setting yourself up for success. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you need any help.