The elbow is the primary joint that connects the forearm to the rest of the upper arm and shoulder. It allows for the ability to perform basic activities such as getting dressed, lifting and throwing objects, combing one’s hair etc. The elbow is held together by ligaments while tendons attach muscles to bones and pull on the bones, allowing the elbow to bend. When degeneration of the elbow occurs, and there is wearing down of the cartilage, it is known as elbow arthritis.


There are several variations of elbow arthritis with the two most common being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition known to destroy cartilage, which allows the elbow to glide smoothly. Arthritis can develop as the result of wear and tear, following trauma to the elbow or through genetic predisposition. Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition resulting from an autoimmune disease which causes the body to attack the lining of the joint, instead of protecting it. Both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis produce symptoms of pain, swelling, stiffness, damage to the joint, and loss of range of motion.

Elbow injuries are common since a fall onto an outstretched hand or the elbow can cause sprains, strains, dislocation and fractures. Elbow fractures are seen in patients of all age groups and are often the result of a direct blow to the elbow. The location of the fracture can vary, occurring above the elbow, at the elbow or below the elbow along the forearm.


A fracture dislocation occurs when the bone is broken and the joint dislocates. An open fracture, also known as a compound fracture, occurs when the break occurs along with a break in the skin. In children, growth plate fractures are common due to the lack of maturity of the bone. Children are more susceptible to elbow fractures because of their level of activity and the fragile bone structure. Growth plates in children have not developed into mature bones which makes them more susceptible to injury.

The cause of an elbow fracture varies, depending on the initial point of impact. The elbow joint is comprised of three bones, the humerus, ulna and radius. These three bones are held together by sets of ligaments, tendons, and muscles, keeping them aligned. Depending on the severity of the injury one or all of these parts can be damaged. Normal symptoms associated with elbow fractures are pain, swelling, tenderness to touch, pain with motion, numbness in the hand, bruising and an inability to straighten or bend the elbow. 

The human elbow is a synovial hinge joint that connects the upper arm bone (humerus) to the two bones in the forearm, the radius and ulna. The function of the elbow is to position the hand in space by either straightening (extending) or bending (flexing). The elbow is supported and stabilized by a number of ligaments and muscles that cross it. There are also a number of crucial nerves and blood vessels that cross the elbow supplying muscles in the forearm and hand.


Common Elbow Conditions:

The elbow is comprised of two types of joints. A ball and socket type joint which allows for a rotating motion and a hinge joint which allows the elbow to flex and extend. Ligaments surround the joint to keep it stabilized, while tendons pull on the bones for movement.


The repetitive movement of straightening and bending can aggravate the muscles and tendons which control the wrist. When the medial or inner tendons attached to the forearm become inflamed and/or degenerated, it is diagnosed as golfer’s elbow or medial epicondylitis. This condition usually develops due to the overuse of muscles and tendons in the forearm such as the repetitive movement of the arm in sports such as golf and tennis.

Basic symptoms of this condition are pain that typically radiates from the forearm into the wrist, pain in the elbow, pain when the wrist is being flexed against resistance, and stiffness in the elbow. Pain may also occur when a fist is being made, making certain activities, such as shaking hands, picking up objects or turning a doorknob, difficult. 

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