The elbow is formed at the articulation of three separate bones, the humerus, radius and ulna. A relatively simple hinge joint is formed by the humerus (or upper arm bone) and the ulna and radius of the lower arm. This joint only allows flexion and extension of the joint. The elbow, however, is actually composed of 3 joints. A second joint between the radius and humerus allows flexion and extension, but is involved in the more complex motion of rotation of the lower arm. The third is a pivot joint formed by the radius and ulna, which also supports the rotating motion of the lower arm.
The elbow is supported by ligaments and tendons that provide stability to the joint. Ligaments are firm, fibrous tissues that connect bones to other bones. The elbow is strongly supported on both the inner (medial) and outer (lateral) sides by these fibrous tissues. The front and back of the elbow, however, are less supported, making it vulnerable to hyperextension and dislocation. Tendons are bands of connective tissue that connect muscles to the bones. Tendons are often a site of pain and inflammation in the elbow.
Elbow pain can be caused by damage to any of these parts of the elbow limiting the use of your arm. The most common injury to the elbow is from repetitive motion that causes the tendons to become damaged from overuse. Symptoms of elbow injuries are pain, stiffness, tingling or numbness, pain when gripping or lifting.
Ligaments, tendons, and cartilage, have poor blood supply, making them slow to heal. This fibrous, collagenous tissue often heals incompletely, leading to chronic conditions and arthritis. Procedures in Regenerative Medicine, Stem Cell Therapy or PRP Injections, can accelerate the speed at which tendons and ligaments heal to ensure a more complete recovery.
Common conditions of the elbow
- Overuse injuries. Overuse injuries involve the ligaments and tendons that have become compromised due to overuse, such as Golfer's Elbow, Tennis Elbow, ulnar collateral ligament injuries and other throwing injuries of the elbow common in young athletes.
- Olecranon bursitis. Bursitis is an inflammation of small sacs of fluid (bursae) that help joints move smoothly. The olecranon bursae are located on the back of the elbow. The causes of elbow bursitis may include trauma or a hard blow, excessive leaning on the elbow, infection through puncture wounds or insect bites, or conditions such as gout and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Biceps tendinitis. The biceps muscle extends from the shoulder to the elbow on the front of the upper arm. When the main tendon that attaches the biceps to the shoulder becomes inflamed, the front and top of the shoulder will ache. The sheath covering the tendon gradually starts to thicken. The tendon may tear, leading to a bulge in the upper arm. Biceps tendinitis can occur with sports and job-related activities that involve repetitive overhead arm movements. Wear and tear of the tendon can also accumulate with age.
- Ulna and radial collateral ligament sprains. These ligaments are the main source of stability for the elbow. Damage to these ligaments from injury or repetitive use will cause pain along the inside of the elbow. Closing the hand and clenching the fist will also be painful.
Videos on types of elbow injury
Overuse Injuries of the Elbow
If you are an athlete, or if you work with your arms and hands, your elbows may be at risk for an overuse injury. This is an injury caused by repetitive motions. This type of injury can be a problem for people who play sports such as tennis or baseball. Children also have a higher risk, because their bones are still growing.
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Throwing overhand again and again puts stress on your elbow and can lead to injury. Young athletes, in particular, are at risk. Some play sports all year without learning how to throw properly while their bones are still growing.
This occurs when a tendon in your elbow, the distal biceps tendon, becomes inflamed or irritated. The biceps tendon connects the biceps muscle of your upper arm to the radius bone at the elbow.
Commonly called tennis elbow, this condition is an inflammation of the tendons that connect the muscles of the forearm to the elbow. The pain is primarily felt at the lateral epicondyle, the bony bump on the outer side of the elbow.
We Can Help
To learn more about what we can do to help with your elbow condition, call our office at 817.416.0970. We will thoroughly diagnose your condition and present you with treatment options. From there we will guide you along your road to recovery.