Common Causes Of Lump On Elbow: What Are Its Treatment Options?

Elbow lump can occur in any individual. It is a type of protrusion that may develop inside the elbow joint or on its surface. Injury on elbow is one of the most common causes for formation of lump in this region. Infection is another important reason for development of a lump like mass on elbow, besides several other reasons.

Depending on the underlying pathology, this type of lump can be asymptomatic or in some cases produce typical symptoms. Elbow lump can be painful, inflamed, red and hot. It can be a hard mass or soft and movable underneath the skin.

If it is due to an infection, the skin over lump may become pitted, red and hot. It may burst leading to serous or pustular discharge.

Sometimes the lump may remain subtle without producing discomfort in movement of elbow joint. Elbow lump protruding from inside the elbow can compromise elbow movement. If you have any type of elbow lump, seek immediate treatment even if it does not interfere with movement of the joint.

What Are The Causes Of Lump On Elbow?

  • There are numerous causes for a lump to develop inside or on the top of elbow joint.
    The most common and frequent reason is formation of hematoma due to an injury or a blow over elbow. Hematoma is collection of clotted blood. Pyogenic skin infection over the elbow can develop into a lump. The microorganism responsible for it is usually staphylococcus bacteria. It may enter in the skin and subcutaneous tissue after an injury or a scratch or abrasion.
  • Elbow bursitis can result in a lump. It is a common orthopedic problem. Inflammation of bursa is known as bursitis. A bursa is a sac present in any joint, including elbow. This tiny sac is filled with fluid which acts as a cushion between the bone and tissues present in elbow. It prevents friction between the two. A bursa can become swollen and form into a lump after an infection or injury. The injury may be as minor as lifting a heavy object. Elbow bursitis can also develop due to gouty arthritis. Usually a lump of elbow bursitis develops on the posterior aspect of elbow.
  • Sebaceous cyst is another important differentiating cause of elbow lump. Sebaceous cyst is a non cancerous lump beneath the skin. It is slow growing mass and often painless. There is a small round bump on the elbow under the skin. There is a visible blackhead at the center of cyst. If the cyst in infected and inflamed it becomes sore and tender. It may rupture and release thick pus like material which has foul smell.
  • A lipoma can grow on the elbow. It is a benign tumor. It develops into a lump which is soft to feel. Lipoma is composed of fatty tissue. Over a period of time it may enlarge in size and affect elbow movement.
  • Fracture or dislocation of bones in elbow can result into a lump. There is specific history of fall or blow on the elbow area. The swelling can develop spontaneously after the fracture. Pain and difficulty in moving the elbow are two major symptoms besides laceration and cuts on skin over elbow.

Treatment Options For Lump On Elbow

Treatment of elbow lump depends on the underlying cause. If it is caused due to an infection, anti inflammatory and antibiotics are the main line treatment. A course of antibiotics will help to cure the infection, pain and swelling.

If the lump is due to an injury, applying cold fomentation over the area will help to reduce the size of lump. Apply it soon after an injury. It will help to shrink the blood vessels and thus less bleeding will occur. Anti inflammatory medications for few days may resolve the hematoma most cases.

In case of a sebaceous cyst the best option is to remove it surgically. However, some sebaceous cyst remains small for long period and they are painless. In such situation simply observe it, and if grows or becomes infected you can consult your doctor.

Diagnosis of bursa may be done with the help of X-ray and MRI. The preliminary treatment consists of anti inflammatory drugs and antibiotics. However, if there are recurrent episodes or if it hampers elbow movement, your doctor may suggest surgery.


  1. AR said:

    What would a hard lump on the side closest to my chest on my elbow qualify as? It’s sometimes hot and it swells when I lift a lot of things for a while. It’s been there about a week and a day now, but it doesn’t hurt unless I touch it. It feels like a bruised lump.

    January 3, 2017
  2. Malcolm said:

    I have had an X-ray for a spot of pain on the elbow about two months ago which was ok. Now I notice that a soft lump has developed on the elbow almost overnight. Please suggest me what can be the reason and should I do?

    November 12, 2017
  3. Kellie said:

    I have the same problem and it is very painful. The doctor at the fracture clinic done an X-ray of my elbow and said it looked ok and its just a touch of tennis elbow. But now my elbow has got swollen very much and also painful, so I am not sure what is up? I was at the fracture clinic because I had dislocated my shoulder and was in a sling for a while so I don’t see how I got a tennis elbow.

    December 15, 2017
  4. Susan said:

    I got tennis elbow and for quite some time I couldn’t figure out why, until I realized it was because I spent so much time on a regular basis watering the lawn with my thumb over the end of the hose to aim the stream of water where I wanted it. The place where the injury is caused is sometimes not where the pain is showing up when it comes to overusing muscles. I forget what the term is for when the pain radiates further up, but when I stopped watering like that, the tennis elbow disappeared.

    December 28, 2017
  5. SG said:

    A week ago when I was digging my garden, I noticed a hard lump on my elbow. It started to grow biiger in very short time. Now it is warm but not painful most of the time, except when I press it or when my elbow gets pressed while in sleep. X-ray done and the report do not reveal fracture. It is a sebaceous cyst? It is irritating me a lot.

    May 11, 2018
    • PUP said:

      A lump in elbow can develop due to many reasons. It can be formation of hematoma from an injury over the elbow area. A bursitis of elbow can cause lump in elbow region. Bursitis is inflammation of bursa. Bursa is a fluid filled sac in a joint which prevent friction of two bones in a joint. A sebaceous cyst can also be responsible for such lump in elbow region. Since there are too many reasons that may cause lump in elbow, the cause needs to be found out. Consult your doctor because only after examination, he will be able to diagnose the condition. Home remedies such as cold application may be able to reduce inflammation. Dip a clean towel in cold water and place it over swollen area two to three times in a day for 10 to 15 minutes.

      August 8, 2018

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