Elbow Popping

What is elbow popping, and how is it treated?

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An occasional painless joint pop, click, or crack is normal and something that everyone experiences from time to time. 

However, if you have persistent elbow popping with pain or stiffness, you should contact the orthopedic experts at OrthoNeuro in Columbus, Ohio.

They offer expert diagnosis and personalized treatments to alleviate elbow pain.

What Does It Mean When My Elbow Pops?

In many cases, your elbow pops are harmless and due to cavitation. 

You have fluid-filled sacs in your joints. When you change positions suddenly, it changes the pressure and volume, releasing gas bubbles. 

Medical professionals don’t know if it’s the formation or collapse of those bubbles that cause cracking or popping sounds.

However, if you have elbow pain, as well as popping, it could be a sign of a more serious issue that might need medical attention.

What Causes Elbow Popping?

Your elbow is a mobile joint, and you use it all the time. 

Athletes, people with manual labor jobs, and older people are most likely to experience elbow popping and related discomfort. 

Some of the prevalent joint issues that contribute to the popping sound, catching sensations, or general instability, include:


Elbow injuries such as sprainstennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, tendinitis, and bursitis can contribute to uncomfortable elbow popping. 

Elbow dislocation or instability is another cause of joint popping or clicking. 


Elbow Popping and Scar Tissue

Elbow popping might be caused by scar tissue from previous injuries or surgeries. In fact, a hard tennis or golf swing could tear scar tissue in your elbow joint, causing the pop as well as pain, swelling, and bruising.


Inflammation in the tendons, ligaments, and nerves in your elbow can also cause painful pops. 

For example, if your ulnar nerve becomes inflamed through overuse or injury, the long fibers can slide in and out of the grooves in your bones that protect it, making clicking sounds.

Similarly, the extensor tendon on the outside of your elbow joint can become inflamed. It makes a clicking sound and sensation as it slides over the bones when you extend or bend your joint.


Osteoarthritis develops when the cartilage that cushions and lubricates a joint wears away. Without cartilage, the bones in your elbows rub against each other, which can cause joint popping.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that attacks the synovial lining of your joints, causing inflammation, joint pain, and stiffness. 

The swollen tissue in your joints can create a popping sound and sensation when your bones move and rub together.

Should I Seek Treatment If My Elbow Hurts and Pops?

As mentioned, almost everyone experiences a joint pop occasionally, and it’s usually harmless. 

However, if you have elbow pain and stiffness, you should consider talking to a doctor. 

If you have mild elbow pain, you can try rest, ice, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine at home. 

If your pain persists or worsens despite your at-home care, call OrthoNeuro to schedule an appointment.


The orthopedists provide thorough exams to identify the cause of your elbow popping and pain. They will review your symptoms, medical history, and lifestyle factors before feeling your elbow for signs of inflammation or deformity. 

Your doctor may gently manipulate your elbow so they can hear the pop and feel the movement in your joint as it happens.

When necessary, your doctor may order X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to see inside your elbow to confirm your diagnosis or evaluate the severity of your condition.


Your doctor will create a personalized treatment plan to address the underlying injury or condition causing the popping, snapping, and cracking in your elbow. 

Depending on your needs, you doctor may suggest:




Anti-inflammatory drugs

Joint injections

Surgery is usually only recommended in severe cases and if non-invasive therapies don’t relieve your pain and other symptoms.

Call OrthoNeuro today or make an appointment online if you have painful elbow popping that reduces your range of motion and interferes with your life.

Make an Appointment with an OrthoNeuro Specialist Today!

If you have been experiencing the symptoms of elbow popping, schedule an appointment with one of our Board Certified Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Specialists at one of our 7 convenient locations throughout Greater Columbus. 

Best of all, most patients can be seen within 24 hours of making an appointment.

Hand, Wrist, and Elbow Specialists

You use your hands, wrists, and elbows all the time. Don’t let pain interfere with your quality of life or independence. Call OrthoNeuro today or make an appointment online if you have persistent pain in your hand, wrist, or elbow that limits your movement or independence.

James C. Cassandra, DO

Orthopedic Hand & Elbow Surgeon

Gary M. Millard, DO

Orthopedic Hand & Elbow Surgeon

Desmond J. Stutzman, DO

Orthopedic Hand & Elbow Surgeon

Scott P. Stephens, MD

Orthopedic Shoulder & Elbow Surgeon

Benjamin W. Szerlip, DO

Orthopedic Shoulder & Elbow Surgeon

“I love this group of Doctors. They have specialists to cover what ever part of the body is in need of treatment. Every doctor i have seen in this practice have had a very good bedside manner and very knowledgeable. I highly recommend this practice for all your orthopedic and neurological needs”

Teresa H.