ZocdocAnswersWhy does my elbow pop loudly every time I fully extend it?

Question

Why does my elbow pop loudly every time I fully extend it?

I am a 29 year old Male. In 2009 I was involved in a vehicle explosion overseas in a combat zone with the U.S. Military. I had a shoulder injury as well as an elbow injury. My shoulder was corrected with surgery however my elbow was never fully addressed. It was attempted to be corrected through physical therapy but that never solved the issue. I have since been discharged from service. Often times I wake up in the night with throbbing pain shooting out of my elbow down to my fingers with numbness in my pinky and ring fingers.

Answer

The pattern of pain you are experiencing is consistent with an ulnar nerve neuropathy. The ulnar nerve (also called the funny bone), runs around the edge of the elbow and for a small distance is not protected by any tough tissue or bone. Thus, it is prone to being injured when the elbow is bumped or struck in some way. This nerve runs down to the hand and has fibers that perceive pain and touch in the pinkie finer and one half of the ring finger. Patients also report experiencing pain or difficulty with griping things. The first thing I do with patients that present with this problem is have them see an occupational or physical therapist. It sounds like you have already gone through this. I think you should give medical therapy a try before resorting to the surgical option. I suggest you start by scheduling an appointment with your primary care physician (internal medicine, or family doctor). He or she can examine your elbow, ask questions regarding you symptoms, and determine for sure if an ulnar neuropathy is in fact what you have. We have medications that are specific to this type of pain, and may give you some relief. If this is not adequate, then you can get a referral to an orthopedic surgeon (hand specialist) who can offer you a more definitive option.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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