Your elbow is an incredibly flexible and functional hinge joint that can also rotate. Any undue stress on the elbow joint can affect the surrounding tendons, ligaments and muscles, causing muscle or tendon damage. Understanding how the most common elbow injuries occur can help you safeguard these important joints and reduce the risk of serious damage.
Acute elbow injuries
Acute elbow injuries typically happen in an instant, due to a fall or other impact or a sudden torsion of the elbow. These include:
- Dislocations: When you fall and catch yourself on your hands, one of your bones can pop out of the elbow joint. Once you’ve had a dislocation, it’s easier for another one to happen.
- Fractures: When you fall and land on your elbow, or your elbow is subjected to a sharp impact (like hitting the inside of a car door during a vehicular accident) one of the bones in the elbow joint can break or chip.
- Strains and sprains: When a muscle that wraps around the elbow stretches or tears, it’s a strain When a tendon that connects muscle to bone stretches or tears, it’s a sprain.
Repetitive use injuries
Repetitive use injuries happen slowly, with damage accumulating over time. When you make the same motion over and over, the cartilage wears away between the bones of your elbow joint and they can start to grind and grate together. Tendons and muscles can also suffer microscopic tears over and over, and the fluid filled sac inside the elbow joint can become inflamed.
- Biceps Tendonitis: The biceps muscle bends the elbow and elevates the shoulder. This muscle is connected to the bones by a thick strong tendon, which can become inflamed and painful due to repetitive overhead motion. It’s common in athletes like baseball pitchers and basketball players, and in construction workers and painters.
- Olecranon Bursitis: The bursa is a flat sac between the skin and the bones at the tip of the elbow. The skin normally slides freely over the bursa, but if the bursa becomes irritated or inflamed, painful bursitis can develop. It’s common in tennis players and desk workers who rest their elbow on their desk for hours every day.
- Golfer’s Elbow: Medial epicondylitis is an inflammatory disorder that results when the muscles in the forearm are overused to grip things, flex the wrist, and rotate the forearm. It’s common in golfers, bowlers, and carpenters.
- Tennis Elbow: Lateral epicondylitis) is also an inflammatory disorder, but results when the muscles that extend the wrist are overused, weakening the tendons. It’s common in racquet sports players, musicians, and factory line workers.
Do you have an acute elbow injury or chronic elbow pain? Contact Strasburger Orthopaedics for a consultation and find out what can be done to improve your elbow health.