I’m certain that there’s noone so unacquainted and unfamiliar with the bodily organs that he does not understand the importance and functions of Elbow joints. Right from brushing your teeth to lifting heavy dumbbells, the elbow joint plays a vital role.
Elbow Joint & Injuries
The elbow joint is a complex joint involving three bones viz. Humerus, Radius and Ulna. It is a hinge joint which can move in one plane even as it is being twisted at the other end due to presence of 2 bones viz. Radius and Ulna.
The importance of the elbow joint can’t be overstated.
Just some the injuries associated with elbow joint are:
- Medial Epicondylitis
- Lateral Epicondylitis
- Olecrenon Bursitis/ Student Elbow
- Pronator Teres syndrome
- Medial & Lateral Epicondylitis:
Medial Epicondylitis is a gradual pain arising along the inner elbow while Lateral Epicondylitis is an exercise-induced pain which affects the outer side of the elbow. Both of these conditions are caused as a result of repetitive stressful gripping and lifting.
They are commonly seen in Racket players, Javelin throwers, Cricketers, Tennis and Golf Players. It can also be occupational hazard where strong forearm muscle contraction is required while gripping a heavy object and therefore, is commonly seen in people who are manual workers such as carpenters, plumbers, butchers and painters.
Golfers as well as tennis players tend to injure their elbow joints – an occupational hazard that they should be aware of. In their case, elbow injuries are characterized by pain and tenderness at the inner (Golfer) and outer (tennis) elbow joint.
Basically, the origin of the flexor and extensor group of the muscle arising at the medial (inner) and lateral (outer) condyle get inflamed.
- Rest – This can help reduce symptoms but may not completely eliminate them
- Alternative sport activity – One where gripping heavy object isn’t involved can be continued to maintain the physical activity level.
- Weight lifting can be continued provided heavy lifting isn’t involved as higher weights require a stronger grip which could further aggravate the condition.
- Care should be taken in exercises like Skull crusher, Bicep curls etc.
- Olecrenon Bursitis/ Student Elbow:
“Olecrenon” is the bone at the tip of the elbow while “burcitis” means inflammation of a bursa (a fluid-filled sac). Simply put, this condition occurs when the fluid-filled sac or bursa at the tip of the elbow gets inflamed.
There are multiple reasons that can lead to this condition:
- Direct hit or trauma to the elbow
- Pressing your elbow against a hard surface (just like a student sitting with his hand on his chin while his elbows rest on the hard desk – hence the name “Student’s Elbow)
- The presence of certain other ailments such as Rheumatoid Arthritis
The first and most common symptom is a swelling at the back of the elbow. Initially it goes unnoticed as it isn’t painful. However, as the swelling increases it starts resembling a small ball at the tip of the elbow. Pain and tenderness is accompanied when it is associated with RA, Gout or infection with puss formation. If there is redness and increase in local temperature at the bursa, then that is a definite sign of infection.
- See your doctor immediately to rule out an infection.
- Avoid activities that put direct pressure on the elbow.
- Use wraps or pads to prevent any further trauma to the elbow.
- Pronator Teres Syndrome:
The Pronator Teres is a muscle in the forearm. This again is an exercise induced condition and usually affects the wrist while weight lifting.
Here, the median nerve gets entrapped between the bellies of the pronator teres muscle.
Common symptoms include:
- Pain in the forearm
- Numbness in the Thumb, Index and Middle Finger
- Weakness in the hand
- Avoid lifting with pronated grip.
- Pronator Stretch can help in lengthening the tight muscle.
- One must visit the physiotherapist or orthopedic surgeon for decompression.
An elbow injury needs to be dealt with seriously. Left untreated or neglected, it can have serious consequences on arm function and strength. Not just athletes but even the average person needs to treat these conditions with the care and attention they deserve.
Stay healthy! Stay Injury-free!
Author credits – Ismat Khoja