Special Tests: What’s Causing My Elbow Pain?

In our last post we introduced the use of special tests for diagnosis. We explained shoulder special tests, but this week we’ll be going over the elbow. There are many ligaments and muscles that attach to the elbow. The use of special tests can help pinpoint the structure that’s causing the elbow pain. If you want to learn more about the structures that make up the elbow, you can here.

Elbow Tests:

Varus stress test:

  • Purpose: to assess lateral/radial collateral ligament
  • Position: with the arm slightly bend put your left arm above the elbow and the your right hand below the elbow on the opposite side
  • Technique: stabilize with your hand on the upper arm and move the lower hand to push the forearm out and away from the body

    Varus & Valgus Stress Test

  • What does it tell us: the test is positive for a lateral/radial collateral ligament injury if the patient reports pain or instability is noticed by the tester

Valgus stress test:

  • Purpose: tao ssess medial/ulnar collateral ligament
  • Position: with the arm slightly bend put your right arm above the elbow near the armpit and the your left hand below the elbow on the opposite side
  • Technique: stabilize with your hand on the upper arm and move the lower hand to push the forearm towards the body
  • What does it tell us: the test is positive for a medial/ulnar collateral ligament injury if the patient reports pain or instability is noticed by the tester

Mill’s test:

  • Purpose: to assess for lateral epicondylitis aka tennis elbow
  • Position: sitting with arm relaxed
  • Technique: the testers straightens the elbow, turns the palm towards the floor and bends the wrist toward the floor
  • What does it tell us: the test is positive for lateral epicondylitis if the patient reports pain

Passive test:

  • Purpose: to assess for medial epicondylitis aka golfer’s elbow
  • Position: sitting with arms relaxed
  • Technique: the tester straightens the arm then moves the wrist into extension and moves the wrist toward the thumb
  • What does it tell us: the test is positive for medial epicondylitis if the patient reports pain

Tinel’s Sign | SpringerLink

Tinel’s sign

  • Purpose: to determine if there is an nerve lesion at the elbow
  • Position: seated and relaxed with the arm bent
  • Technique: tap at the cubital tunnel “funny bone” of the elbow 
  • What does it tell us: the test is positive if the patient reports tingling in 1/2 of the ring finger and/or pinky finger.

Contact Us!

If you’d like to learn more about the shoulder check out our anatomy blog post. Got elbow pain? BeneFIT PT wants to help. So if you feel like something is wrong or you are more sore than you should be just give us a call to get that free medical screening scheduled.  For Chester call: (908)-879-5700, Bridgewater: (908)-203-5200.