Exploring the Elbow: Anatomy and Common Injuries

Introduction:

The elbow joint is a remarkable and intricate structure that plays a vital role in our daily lives. Despite its small size, it’s a complex mechanism that facilitates numerous movements, from simple tasks like bending the arm to more intricate activities such as throwing a ball or lifting weights (Chalmers & Chamberlain, 2016). In this blog, we’ll delve into the basic anatomy of the elbow joint and explore three of the most common injuries that affect it.

Anatomy of the Elbow Joint:

The elbow serves as a hinge joint that connects our forearm and upper arm.
Three bones come together at the elbow joint: the humerus, which is in the upper arm, and two long bones called the ulna, which is on your pinkie finger’s side, and radius on your thumb’s side in the forearm (Illustrations, 2015).
Let’s talk muscles of the elbow. The triceps brachii and the anconeus muscles located at the back of the upper arm, is responsible for elbow extension (straightening) (Illustrations, 2015). The Anconeus muscle although small also stabilizes the joint. The biceps brachii, situated at the front of the upper arm, brachialis, underneath the biceps, and the brachioradialis, positioned on the outer side of the forearm, aids in elbow flexion (bending), and supination (turning the palm upwards) (Illustrations, 2015).
These muscles work in coordination to perform various pushing and pulling actions, such as pushing a door open or pulling towards you. Additionally, it gives us the ability to rotate our wrists, which enables us to carry out routine tasks like turning a page or a doorknob or key (Illustrations, 2015).
Strengthening the muscles around the elbow joint is crucial for maintaining balance and stability in the arms (Chalmers & Chamberlain, 2016). Hand grip strength is a vital measure of overall physical strength and functional ability. It not only reflects muscular strength in the hands and forearms but also correlates with overall muscle mass and physical performance (Chalmers & Chamberlain, 2016).

Three common injuries in the elbow joint:

Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis):

Tennis elbow is a common overuse injury that affects the tendons on the outer side of the elbow. It is often caused by repetitive movements, such as gripping and twisting motions, leading to inflammation and microtears in the tendons. Despite its name, tennis elbow can occur in individuals who engage in various activities that involve repetitive arm movements, such as painting, typing, or
  1. playing musical instruments (Winston & Wolf, 2015).

Golfer’s Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis):

Golfer’s elbow is similar to tennis elbow but affects the tendons on the inner side of the elbow. It is characterized by pain and inflammation near the bony bump on the inside of the elbow. Like tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow is commonly
caused by repetitive gripping and wrist movements, often seen in sports like golf, but can also occur due to activities such as gardening or carpentry
  1. (Sharma, 2022).

Olecranon Bursitis:

Olecranon bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa, a fluid-filled sac located at the tip of the elbow. It typically presents as swelling, tenderness, and warmth at the back of the elbow. Olecranon bursitis can be caused by trauma, infection, or repetitive pressure on the elbow, such as leaning on hard surfaces for extended periods
  1. (Abrams & Safran, 2012).

Rehabilitation:

Elbow joint rehabilitation is crucial for restoring function, reducing pain, and preventing further injury after elbow-related injuries or surgeries. It improves range of motion, strengthens muscles, enhances flexibility, reduces pain, enhances functionality, prevents recurrence, promotes healing, and facilitates return to activity (Gibson, 2012).
Rehabilitation exercises help maintain the range of motion in the elbow joint, strengthen muscles surrounding the joint, and improve flexibility (Gibson, 2012). Pain reduction allows individuals to participate more fully in their rehabilitation program and daily activities (Gibson, 2012). Effective rehabilitation also promotes tissue healing, circulation, and remodeling, accelerating the recovery process. Overall, elbow joint rehabilitation enhances overall joint health and quality of life.
Don’t worry we won’t leave you in the dark check out our social media platforms to find a few exercises that you can do at home, in the gym, or in the pool!

Take away message:

The elbow is a bending and twisting marvel and let’s face it: the human experience would be quite different without elbows. Understanding the elbow joint anatomy and recognizing signs of common injuries like tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, and olecranon bursitis can help prevent and manage these conditions for optimal elbow health.
References:
 Abrams, G., & Safran, M. (2012). Elbow bursitis. Presentation, Imaging and Treatment of Common Musculoskeletal Conditions Expert Consult, 167–169. https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-1-4377-0914-8.00042-4
Chalmers, P. N., & Chamberlain, A. M. (2016). Biomechanics of the elbow. The Unstable Elbow, 13–26. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-46019-2_2
Gibson, J. (2012). Rehabilitation of the elbow. Operative Elbow Surgery, 511–531. https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-7020-3099-4.00034-5
Illustrations, G. (2015). Elbow and forearm anatomy – gray’s anatomy illustrations. Radiopaedia.Org. https://doi.org/10.53347/rid-34672
Sharma, M. (2022). A case report to study the effectiveness of cupping therapy on medial epicondylitis/golfers elbow. AYUSHDHARA, 3671–3675. https://doi.org/10.47070/ayushdhara.v8i6.858
Winston, J., & Wolf, J. M. (2015). Tennis elbow: Definition, causes, Epidemiology. Tennis Elbow, 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4899-7534-8_1
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