Although a non-weight-bearing joint, the elbow serves as an integral part of our daily routine by enabling our arms to bend, straighten, and rotate. Made up of a complex array of bones, muscles, ligaments, nerves, and tendons, some of the more prominent structures in the synovial hinge joint include:
- Humerus: upper arm bone
- Ulna: large bone in the forearm
- Radius: small bone in the forearm
- Medial Collateral Ligament: MCL, connects the ulna to the humerus
- Lateral Collateral Ligament: LCL, connects the radius to the humerus
- Annular Ligament: holds the radius to the ulna
- Biceps Tendon: attaches biceps muscle to the radius
- Triceps Tendon: attaches triceps muscle to the ulna
Common Elbow Conditions
Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a condition where the tendons in the elbow become inflamed or partially torn. Tennis elbow is caused by repetitive stress, and as indicated by the name, tennis and other sports involving repeated motions of the wrist and arm are the primary cause of the condition. In addition, individuals who work in manual labor that requires repetitious weight-lifting may also get tennis elbow. This condition tends to cause pain or burning in the elbow, as well as weak grip strength. Fortunately, a majority of patients can heal from tennis elbow with nonsurgical treatment, such as rest, physical therapy, protective braces, or cortisone injections.
Elbow dislocations occur when the bones that make up the elbow are shifted out of alignment.
The joint surfaces can either be partially or completely separated from each other and often result in other serious bone or ligament injuries. You may have dislocated your elbow if you experience severe pain, swelling, and the inability to bend your arm. There are three types of elbow dislocations:
- Simple Dislocation: no major bone injuries are present
- Complex Dislocation: bone or ligament injuries are present
- Severe Dislocation: blood vessels and nerve injuries are present
This condition is caused by falling on an outstretched hand or a sudden trauma. An elbow dislocation is not common, and you should seek medical attention at Comprehensive Medical Care if you suspect that your elbow has moved out of place.
The medial collateral ligament (MCL), also known as the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), serves to attach the ulna to the humerus and contributes to joint stability. Tears to this ligament most frequently develop as a result of repetitive, forceful throwing motions, so they are typically seen in baseball or lacrosse players. With this condition, you may experience inflammation and pain in the elbow, and lose the ability to exert force into a throw. To treat an MCL tear, your orthopedic specialist may suggest a ligament reconstruction, typically referred to as a Tommy John surgery.
Treatments for Elbow Conditions
At Comprehensive Medical Care, your specialist will likely recommend the use of nonsurgical treatment options prior to surgery. Some common conservative treatments to address the above elbow conditions include:
- Physical therapy
- Corticosteroid injections
- Ice or heat application
- Pain management
- Regenerative medicine
- Elbow immobilization
However, more severe conditions of the elbow will require surgical intervention. Elbow surgeries that Comprehensive Medical Care offers include:
- UCL Reconstruction or Tommy John Surgery
- Elbow Arthroscopy
- Tendon Repair
- Elbow Replacement
- Fracture Repair
Following most elbow surgeries, you will be required to wear an elbow brace that secures the joint at a 60 to 90 degree angle to promote healing and reduce inflammation.