Elbow Injuries and Rehabilitation

Keep Your Elbows Working Properly

Photo of a man holding his elbow.
The ligaments of your elbow help to stabilize the joint.. uchar/Getty Images

The elbow is a hinge joint that is formed by the union of three bones: the humerus, radius, and ulna. Through the action of four muscle groups, including the well-known biceps and triceps, the elbow can bend upward or straighten out. Stress on this joint can affect the surrounding ligaments and muscles and cause tissue damage. Learn more about elbow anatomy, injuries, and rehabilitation.

Ligaments of the Elbow Joint

Two ligaments are present in the elbow joint -- the ulnar collateral ligament and the radial collateral ligament.

These ligaments provide strength and support to the joint, as do the surrounding muscles.

The ulnar collateral ligament is a strong, fan-shaped condensation of the fibrous joint capsule. It is located on the inner side of the joint. This ligament prevents excessive outward movement of the elbow joint.

The radial collateral ligament is also a strong, fan-shaped condensation of the fibrous joint capsule. It is located on the outer side of the joint. This ligament prevents excessive inward movement of the elbow joint.

Disorders of the Elbow

Biceps Tendonitis
The biceps muscle in a large muscle that works to bend the elbow as well as elevate the shoulder. This muscle is connected to the bones above and below the arm by a thick strong tendon. There are two heads to the biceps muscle, the long head and the short head. With repetitive use, the biceps tendon can become inflamed and painful during use.

Olecranon Bursitis
The bursa is a slippery sac between the skin and the bones at the tip of the elbow. The bursa allows the skin to move freely over the underlying bone. Normally, the bursa is flat. If it becomes irritated or inflamed due to repetitive movement, a condition known as olecranon bursitis develops.

Golfer's Elbow
Golfer's elbow (medial epicondylitis) is an inflammatory disorder. Golfer's elbow results when the muscles that flex the wrist are overused. This overuse results in swelling or inflammation of the muscle tendons. Golfer's elbow is named as such due to its common occurrence in people who play the sport. Repetitive flexing of the wrist contributes to this disorder.

Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is also an inflammatory disorder. Tennis elbow results when the muscles that extend the wrist are overused. This overuse results in swelling or inflammation of the muscle tendons. This inflammation causes pain and discomfort at the outer aspect of the elbow joint.

Elbow Rehabilitation

Stretching and strengthening of the elbow muscles is an important way to recover from injuries and prevent them from reoccurring. Working with your physical therapist is a good idea after an elbow injury.

Exercising the biceps and triceps not only increases arm strength but helps stabilize and prevent elbow injuries.

Working on exercises for your wrists and forearms can also help keep your elbows working properly. Keeping your shoulders and rotator cuff muscles strong helps bring support to your entire upper extremity. Check in with your physical therapist to learn the best strategies to keep your elbows healthy and working properly.

Bonus: Elbow Strengthening Exercises

Edited by Brett Sears, PT

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