Elbow Pain – A Funny Bone With No Laughing Matter


The elbow is the joint that connects the end of the upper arm bone, distal humerus, to the bones of the forearm, radius and ulna, with ligaments, tendons and muscles.

The elbow allows us to bend, extend and rotate the arm. The radius and ulna, the two bones of the forearm, fit into the ends of the upper arm bone like a hinge forming the elbow joint. The distal humerus, the upper arm bone, flares out to form the medial and lateral epicondyles. The large bump of the ulna behind the elbow joint is called the olecranon. The olecranon forms the bony prominence of the elbow and connects with the triceps muscles of the upper arm.

At one time or another everyone has typically experienced a minor elbow injury. An example of this is when a person bumps their “funny bone.” The “funny bone” involves the ulnar nerve that runs down the back of the elbow. When this nerve is bumped, a feeling of pain and a tingling sensation is felt down the arm. This pain may be intense at first but is brief and will go away on its own.

Minor or serious elbow pain can include symptoms such as pain, swelling, numbness, tingling, weakness or a decrease in range of motion. Sudden or acute elbow injuries may be caused by a direct blow, a fall, or a penetrating injury. Other elbow injuries can occur by twisting, jerking, jamming or bending the elbow abnormally.

Examples of acute injuries include bruises, sprains, strains, fractures or dislocation. Overuse injures can occur when too much stress is placed on a joint or other tissue. This can be caused by overdoing an activity or through repetition of an activity. Some examples of overuse injures are bursitis, swelling behind the elbow, tendonitis, micro-tears in the connective tissue, and radial tunnel syndrome, which is the pinching of the deep radial nerve near the elbow joint.

Elbow treatment depends on several factors; the location, type and severity of the injury, how long ago the injury occurred and a persons age, health condition and activities. Elbow treatment measures include the application of a brace, splint, or cast, physical therapy, medication and in some cases surgery.

The elbow is a major joint that provides us with movements we use each and every hour. Taking care of this important joint is important in good health.