Elbow

  • Anatomy
  • Conditions
  • Procedures

Elbow Anatomy

The elbow is a complex joint formed by the articulation of three bones –the humerus, radius and ulna. The elbow joint helps in bending or straightening of the arm to 180 degrees and assists in lifting or moving objects.

The bones of the elbow are supported by:

  • Ligaments and tendons
  • Muscles
  • Nerves
  • Blood vessels

Bones and Joints of the elbow joint:

The elbow joint is formed at the junction of three bones:

  • The Humerus (upper arm bone) forms the upper portion of the joint. The lower end of the humerus divides in to two bony protrusions known as the medial and lateral epicondyles which can be felt on either side of the elbow joint.
  • The Ulna is the larger bone of the forearm located on the inner surface of the joint. The curved shape of the ulna articulates with the humerus.
  • The Radius is the smaller bone of the forearm situated on the outer surface of the joint. The head of the radius is circular and hollow which allows movement with the humerus. The connection between the ulna and radius helps the forearm to rotate.

The elbow consists of three joints because of articulation of the three bones namely:

  • Humero-ulnar joint is formed between the humerus and ulna and allows flexion and extension of the arm.
  • Humero-radial joint is formed between the radius and humerus, and allows movements like flexion, extension, supination and pronation.
  • Radio-ulnar joint is formed between the ulna and radius bones, and allows rotation of the lower arm.

Articular cartilage lines the articulating regions of the humerus, radius and ulna. It is a thin, tough, flexible, and slippery surface that acts as a shock absorber and cushion to reduce friction between the bones. The cartilage is lubricated by synovial fluid, which further enables the smooth movement of the bones.

Muscles of the Elbow Joint

There are several muscles extending across the elbow joint that help in various movements. These include the following:

  • Biceps brachii: upper arm muscle enabling flexion of the arm
  • Triceps brachii: muscle in the back of the upper arm that extends the arm and fixes the elbow during fine movements
  • Brachialis: upper arm muscle beneath the biceps which flexes the elbow towards the body
  • Brachioradialis: forearm muscle that flexes, straightens and pulls the arm at the elbow
  • Pronator teres: this muscle extends from the humeral head, across the elbow, and towards the ulna, and helps to turn the palm facing backward
  • Extensor carpi radialis brevis: forearm muscle that helps in movement of the hand
  • Extensor digitorum: forearm muscle that helps in movement of the fingers

Elbow Joint Ligaments and Tendons:

The elbow joint is supported by ligaments and tendons, which provide stability to the joint.

Ligaments are a group of firm tissues that connect bones to other bones. The most important ligaments of the elbow joint are the:

  • Medial or ulnar collateral ligament: comprised of triangular bands of tissue on the inner side of the elbow joint.
  • Lateral or radial collateral ligament: a thin band of tissue on the outer side of the elbow joint.

Together, the medial and lateral ligaments are the main source of stability and hold the humerus and ulna tightly in place during movement of the arm.

  • Annular ligament: It is a group of fibers that surrounds the radial head, and holds the ulna and radius tightly in place during movement of the arm.

The ligaments around a joint combine to form a joint capsule that contains synovial fluid.

Any injury to these ligaments can lead to instability of the elbow joint.

Tendons are bands of connective tissue fibers that connect muscle to bone. The various tendons which surround the elbow joint include:

  • Biceps tendon: attaches the biceps muscle to the radius, allowing the elbow to bend
  • Triceps tendon: attaches the triceps muscle to the ulna, allowing the elbow to straighten

Nerves of the elbow joint:

The main nerves of the elbow joint are the ulnar, radial and median nerves. These nerves transfer signals from the brain to the muscles that aid in elbow movements. They also carry the sensory signals like touch, pain, and temperature back to the brain.

Any injury or damage to these nerves causes pain, weakness or joint instability.

Blood vessels

Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen-pure blood from the heart to the hand. The main artery of the elbow is the brachial artery that travels across the inside of the elbow and divides into two small branches below the elbow to form the ulnar and the radial artery.

Elbow Arthritis

Elbow Arthritis

Although the elbows are not weight-bearing joints, they are considered to be most important for the functioning of the upper limbs. Hence, even minor trauma or disease affecting the elbow may cause pain and limit the movements of the upper limbs. Arthritis is one of the common disease conditions affecting the elbow joint.

Elbow Injuries

Elbow Injuries

Fracture is a common injury to the elbow. Elbow fractures may result from a fall onto an outstretched wrist, a direct impact to the elbow or a twisting injury. Elbow fractures may cause severe pain, swelling, tenderness and painful movements. If a fracture is suspected, immediate intervention by your doctor is necessary. Surgery is often required if a bony displacement is observed.

Elbow Pain

Elbow Pain

The elbow is a hinge joint made up of 3 bones – humerus, radius and ulna. The bones are held together by ligaments to provide stability to the joint. Muscles and tendons move the bones around each other and help in performing various activities. Nerves pass through the joint. Damage to these structures can cause elbow pain

Elbow Sprain

Elbow Sprain

Elbow sprain is an injury to the soft tissues of the elbow. It is caused due to stretching or tearing (partial or full) of the ligaments which support the elbow joint. Ligaments are a group of fibrous tissues that connect one bone to another in the body.

Elbow Dislocation

Elbow Dislocation

The elbow is a hinge joint made up of 3 bones – humerus, radius and ulna. The bones are held together by ligaments to provide stability to the joint. Muscles and tendons move the bones around each other and help in performing various activities. Elbow dislocation occurs when the bones that make up the joint are forced out of alignment.

Tennis Elbow

Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow is the common name used for the elbow condition called lateral epicondylitis. It is an overuse injury that causes inflammation of the tendons that attach to the bony prominence on the outside of the elbow (lateral epicondyle).

Golfer’s Elbow

Golfer’s Elbow

Golfer’s elbow, also called medial epicondylitis, is a painful condition occurring from repeated muscle contractions in the forearm that leads to inflammation and microtears in the tendons that attach to the medial epicondyle.

Elbow Arthroscopy

Elbow Arthroscopy

Elbow arthroscopy, also referred to as keyhole or minimally invasive surgery, is performed through tiny incisions to evaluate and treat several elbow conditions.

Ulnar Collateral Ligament Repair

Ulnar Collateral Ligament Repair

When this ligament is injured, it can end a professional athlete’s career unless surgery is performed. The common symptoms associated with a UCL injury are as follows:

Operative Treatment of Distal Humerus Fractures

Operative Treatment of Distal Humerus Fractures

The elbow is a region between the upper arm and the fore arm. The elbow joint is made up of 3 bones. The distal (lower) end of the humerus bone in the upper arm joins with the radius and ulna bones in the fore arm to form the elbow joint. The elbow joint is very important for the movement of your arms and for coordination of daily activities. Injury in the distal humerus can cause impairment in the function of the elbow joint.

Operative Treatment of Radial Head Fractures

Operative Treatment of Radial Head Fractures

The elbow is a junction between the forearm and the upper arm. The elbow joint is made up of 3 bones, namely the humerus bone in the upper arm which joins with the radius and ulna bones in the forearm. The elbow joint is essential for the movement of your arms and to perform daily activities. The head of the radius bone is cup-shaped and corresponds to the spherical surface of the humerus.

Distal Biceps Repair

Distal Biceps Repair

The biceps muscle located in the front of the upper arm allows you to bend the elbow and rotate the arm. Biceps tendons attach the biceps muscle to the bones of the shoulder and the elbow.

Elbow Epicondylitis Repair

Elbow Epicondylitis Repair

Lateral epicondylitis of the elbow, also called tennis elbow, is a painful condition occurring from repeated muscle contractions in the forearm that leads to inflammation and micro-tears in the tendons that attach to the lateral epicondyle of the humerus (upper arm bone). The lateral epicondyle is the bony prominence that is felt on the outside of the elbow.

Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction (“Tommy John”)

Ulnar Nerve Decompression/Transposition

The ulnar nerve travels down the back of the elbow behind the bony bump called the medial epicondyle, and through a passageway called the cubital tunnel. The cubital tunnel is a narrow passageway on the inside of the elbow formed by bone, muscle, and ligaments with the ulnar nerve passing through its center. The roof of the cubital tunnel is covered with a soft tissue called fascia.

Olecranon Bursectomy

Olecranon Bursectomy

Coming soon