Elbow Lump

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What is elbow lump?

An elbow lump is an abnormal protrusion or bump within the elbow joint or on the surface of the elbow. Elbow lumps can happen to anyone. Often, elbow lumps are the result of an injury, such as a blow to the elbow.

Elbow lumps may result from inflammation (swelling), poor healing of a broken bone, or a skin growth, such as a cyst or tumor. Inflammation of the elbow can result from tendinitis, bursitis, sports injury, sprains, strains, arthritis, or infections within the joint. Growths can be either benign or cancerous in nature.

Treatment for elbow lump is dependent on the cause of the lump. If the elbow lump causes no discomfort, no treatment may be necessary. In cases of inflammation, anti-inflammatory medications or steroids may help improve the condition. Pain medication may help to alleviate any pain that you may experience along with elbow lump. Elbow lumps that arise due to tumors or serious causes may require surgery.

Seek prompt medical care for painful lumps on the elbow or lumps that interfere with joint motion. If your elbow lump is persistent or causes you concern, seek prompt medical care.

What other symptoms might occur with elbow lump?

Elbow lump may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

Muscular and skeletal symptoms that may occur along with elbow lump

Elbow lump may accompany other symptoms affecting the muscles, bones and joints including:

  • Redness, warmth or swelling
  • Reduced mobility (range of motion of the joint)
  • Shoulder, arm, hand or finger pain
  • Visible deformity of the elbow

Other symptoms that may occur along with elbow lump

Elbow lump may accompany symptoms related to other body systems including:

Symptoms that might indicate a serious condition

In some cases, elbow lump may occur with other symptoms or a serious injury that might indicate a serious condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have elbow lump along with other serious symptoms including:

  • Paralysis
  • Severe bleeding
  • Sharp, sudden elbow pain
  • Visible deformity of the joint that has a sudden onset

What causes elbow lump?

Elbow lump is often caused by traumatic injury, such as a sharp blow to the elbow. In these cases, the elbow lump may be related to swelling of the elbow. In other cases, a benign growth or tumor might be responsible for the lump. If you have recently injured your elbow, the lump may be due to healing of a fractured bone in the elbow.

Common causes of elbow lump

Elbow lump may be caused by a variety of common conditions and events including:

  • Arthritis
  • Bursitis (inflammation of a bursa sac that cushions a joint)
  • Elbow or arm injury (fracture, dislocation)
  • Fragments within the joint space (bone, cartilage)
  • Gout (type of arthritis caused by a buildup of uric acid in the joints)
  • Healing process of a broken bone
  • Overuse injury
  • Tendinitis (inflammation of a tendon)

Rare causes of elbow lump

Elbow lump can also be caused by some uncommon conditions including:

  • Abscess
  • Benign tumor
  • Cellulitis (infection of the skin and tissues beneath the skin)
  • Cyst (benign sac that contains fluid, air, or other materials)
  • Retained foreign body

Serious or life-threatening causes of elbow lump

In some cases, elbow lump may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Bone fractures
  • Malignant tumor

Questions for diagnosing the cause of elbow lump

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your elbow lump including:

  • How long have you had an elbow lump?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • Do you have any pain with your elbow lump?
  • Do you have arthritis?
  • Do you use your elbow frequently or use your elbow for strenuous activities?
  • Have you had any recent injuries?
  • What makes your elbow lump feel better or worse?

What are the potential complications of elbow lump?

Elbow lump is often a mild condition that will not cause any serious complications. If the elbow lump is related to minor swelling, home remedies, such as cold compresses and over the counter pain and anti-inflammatory medications, may help to alleviate pain or inflammation associated with elbow lump.

Because elbow lump can be due to serious diseases, however, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Inability to perform daily tasks
  • Joint deformity and destruction
  • Paralysis
  • Permanent joint instability
  • Permanent loss of sensation
  • Spread of cancer
  • Spread of infection
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Dec 5
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Elbow injuries and disorders. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/elbowinjuriesanddisorders.html
  2. Broken bone. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000001.htm
  3. Kahan S, Miller R, Smith EG (Eds.). In A Page Signs & Symptoms, 2d ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Williams, 2009