Elbow injuries range from as mild as bumping your “funny bone” to as serious as a fracture, or even complete elbow dislocation. While many people might not think of elbows as a common injury location, they are actually quite vulnerable to damage. The most frequent cause of elbow pain is injury, although you may not be able to pinpoint when and where it occurred, because symptoms may take time to emerge.
This is especially true of conditions caused by repetitive motions such as tennis elbow, which is caused by tendons in the arm becoming overworked and inflamed. Although it is often associated with the sports motions of tennis, it can actually be related to any repeated movement that strains the tendons of the forearm.
Anatomy of the Elbow
The elbow joint is a complex hinge joint created by the upper arm bone, known as the humerus, and the two forearm bones called the radius and ulna. The elbow joint allows for both flexion (bending) and extending of your arm. The anatomy of the elbow includes various nerves, such as the ulnar, which is the one responsible for the tingling sensation you feel when you bump your elbow accidently, as well as ligaments (strong fibers that connect bones to other bones) and tendons, which connect bones to muscles.
Elbow pain can also arise from arthritis, bursitis (inflammation of the bursa, or area around the tip of the elbow). Most elbow pain caused by minor injuries and irritation can be relieved by allowing the elbow to rest, using ice to reduce swelling, elevating the joint and taking over the counter anti-inflammatory medications. Some cases are acute and will require more aggressive treatment that may include surgery.
Because it is limited in its range of motion, the elbow is also extremely vulnerable to breaks at the elbow joint. People may injure their elbow during a fall, either by landing on the elbow itself or in an attempt to break their fall. The vast majority of elbow injuries are associated with sports activities such as football, cycling, wrestling, or soccer. Children can also injure themselves in a fall from a trampoline, skateboarding or using inline skates.
Common Elbow Injuries Include:
· Fractures of the elbow joint
· Dislocations of the elbow where the bones are forced out of their proper alignment
· Tendon or ligament strains, sprains and tears
· Pulled muscles
· Bruising and other tissue damage
· Damage to the cartilage of the elbow
· Tenosynovitis (inflammation of the tendon sheath)
If you have an elbow injury or condition that is causing you pain or limited movement, you should see a qualified orthopedic surgeon to determine the underlying cause and receive proper treatment.