Anatomy and Physiology of the Elbow
The elbow joint is essentially a junction of three bones. It consists of the upper arm bone called the humerus, the medial forearm called the ulna and the lateral forearm called the radius. The bones are supported by three main ligaments: the medial collateral, the lateral collateral and the annular.
Additionally, the elbow joint is also the junction where a variety of well known bones insert into, or originate from, and soft tissue connects to. This includes the biceps, triceps, brachialis, brachioradialis and pronator teres which all facilitate the production of power necessary for the flexing and rotating movements that we all take for granted.
While the elbow provides a powerful hinge motion between the upper and lower arm, the joint requires the junction of the humerus, ulna, and radius to be enclosed in a synovial joint capsule which consists of synovial fluid that provides lubrication for smooth joint movement.
Additionally, the joint also contains three sacs of fluid, often called a bursa, that similarly help reduce friction, promote smooth motion and absorb shocks from external forces. While the synovial capsule and bursa sacs provide excellent support, they are susceptible to stressful repetitive motions that can cause painful irritating injuries. Additionally, the medial and lateral sides of the elbow, called epicondyle areas, also suffer from repetitive motions resulting in common tendon and muscle tears.
Bursitis of the Elbow typically occurs when the elbow experiences a high force impact or from long term overuse of the elbow joint.
Lateral Epicondylitis (aka Tennis elbow) occurs when a repetitive stress is placed on the elbow and forearm, causing the tendon to tear.
Medial Epicondylitis (aka Little League or Golfer’s elbow) occurs from overuse of the forearm muscles, causing the tendon to tear.