Elbow Pain & Injury Information

What is the basic anatomy of the elbow?
The elbow is the joint in the middle of the arm where three long bones meet. The bone of the upper arm (humerus) meets the inner bone of the forearm (ulna) and the outer bone of the forearm (radius) to form a hinge joint. The elbow is held together by two ligament complexes and four muscle groups that work to bend and extend the arm.
What is involved in a physical elbow exam?
A physical elbow exam requires in-depth understanding of the elbow’s anatomy. The physician will ask you a series of questions. He/she will also analyze the elbow’s appearance, movement and position and perform in-office tests to determine what positions result in discomfort.
What are some common causes of elbow pain?
Playing tennis and golf are common causes of elbow pain. However, many other activities can create inflammation and pain in the tendons of the elbow. These include using a screwdriver, grasping, hammering, throwing, raking, and painting, among others.

There are three main types of elbow injuries:

  • Overuse injuries (microtrauma) – including tendonitis, medial and lateral epicondylitis.
  • Chronic conditions – such as osteoarthritis, bursitis, etc.
  • Traumatic injuries – including fractures, dislocations, tendon/ligament ruptures, etc.

What is tendinitis (or tendonitis)?
Tendinitis is an inflammation or irritation of a tendon, a thick cord that attaches bone to muscle.
What are some common causes of tendinitis?
Tendinitis is most often caused by repetitive, minor impact on the affected area, or from a sudden more serious injury. There are many activities that require repeated use of your elbow which can cause tendinitis. Some of the most common include gardening, raking, or painting. Recreational sports such as golf and tennis can also lead to tendinitis.
What are the symptoms of tendinitis?
The most common symptom is pain at the site of the tendon and surrounding area. Pain may gradually build up or be sudden and severe.
What is “tennis elbow?”
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a term for a common overuse injury where the muscle and tendon area around the outside of the elbow are injured. The injury got its name because tennis players sometimes suffer from lateral epicondylitis. The injury is also common for people who do not play tennis.
What are some common causes of tennis elbow?
Overuse of the forearm muscles using a repeated twisting motion is the most common cause of tennis elbow. These movements are common to various jobs such as carpentry or plumbing, and many daily activities such as yard work and lifting objects.
What are the symptoms of tennis elbow?
Symptoms of tennis elbow include:
  • Pain around the outside of the elbow that slowly increases.
  • Pain when shaking hands or squeezing objects.
  • Pain when stabilizing or moving the wrist with force. Examples include lifting, using tools, opening jars, or even handling simple utensils such as a toothbrush or knife and fork.
What is “golfer’s elbow?”
Golfer’s elbow, or medial epicondylitis, causes pain and inflammation in the tendons that connect the forearm to the elbow. The pain centers on the bony bump on the inside of the elbow and may radiate into the forearm. Despite the name, this condition isn’t limited to golfers.
What are some common causes of golfers elbow?
Golfer’s elbow is usually caused by overusing the muscles in the forearm that allow you to rotate your arm and flex your wrist. Repetitive flexing, gripping, or swinging can cause pulls or tiny tears in the tendons.
What are some common symptoms of golfer’s elbow?
The primary symptom of golfer’s elbow is pain that is centered near the bony knob on the inside of the elbow. Sometimes it extends all along the inner forearm. You’re likely to feel it when you bend your arm inward or flex your wrist toward the body. In most cases, the pain gradually increases over time.
What is the difference between tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow?
Golfer’s elbow is not as well-known as tennis elbow. Both are forms of elbow tendinitis. The difference is that tennis elbow stems from damage to tendons on the outside of the elbow, while golfer’s elbow is caused by tendons on the inside.
How do you treat traumatic elbow injuries?
Treatment for most minor injuries involves rest, ice, immobilization, elevating the arm, compression, and anti-inflammation medications. In some cases, physical therapy may help strengthen the muscle around the elbow and regain arm motion. In the event of an elbow fracture a patient may require surgery to help ensure healing without any loss of function.
What is olecranon bursitis?
Bursitis is an inflammation of small sacs of fluid (bursae) that help joints move smoothly. Olecranon bursitis, which affects the olecranon bursa at the back of the elbow, is sometimes called “Popeye elbow” because the bump that develops at the back of the elbow is thought to resemble the cartoon character, Popeye.
What causes olecranon bursitis?
Olecranon bursitis can occur from injury or minor trauma as a result of systemic diseases such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis, or from a local infection.
What are the symptoms of olecranon bursitis?
Symptoms of olecranon bursitis may include:
  • Pain, especially with movement of the elbow or pressure on the elbow.
  • Swelling. One lump may be felt in the back of the affected elbow. The swelling or lump is caused by increased fluid within the bursa and is tender with movement or when touched.
  • Redness, red streaking, warmth, fever, and swollen lymph nodes in the armpit caused by infection.
How is olecranon bursitis diagnosed?
Your doctor can likely diagnose olecranon bursitis from a medical history and physical examination. If the swelling is the result of an injury, X-rays may be necessary to determine whether the elbow is fractured. If your doctor is concerned about an infection in your elbow, he or she may drain fluid from the elbow with a needle for further analysis.
How is olecranon bursitis treated?
Treatment for sudden (acute) bursitis may include drainage of excess fluid in the sac with a needle, followed by injections of medicines into the sac to decrease inflammation and promote healing.
Treatment for ongoing (chronic) bursitis focuses on patient education. For instance, it is important to avoid leaning on the elbows, to protect the elbows with pads while playing contact sports, and use anti-inflammatory drugs. Antibiotic medicines may also be needed to treat infection, and surgery may be recommended to drain or remove the bursa.

Traumatic elbow injuries

How do you treat traumatic elbow injuries?
Treatment for most minor injuries involves rest, ice, immobilization, elevating the arm, compression, and anti-inflammation medications. In some cases, physical therapy may help strengthen the muscle around the elbow and regain arm motion. In the event of an elbow fracture a patient may require surgery to help ensure healing without any loss of function.