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Elbow joint is made up of three bones humerus, radius, and ulna. These bones are held in place by muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Elbow joint is used in almost all the activities that involve upper limb. It moves with almost all the movements of our arms. It allows a wide range of activities like bathing, brushing, writing, cooking, throwing a ball etc.

Causes of Elbow Ailments

Elbow problems can occur due to variety of reasons including:

  • A sudden (acute) injury may occur due to
    • fall on elbow
    • a direct blow to the elbow
    • abnormal twisting or bending of the elbow
  • Manual labor and prolonged typing or writing or cooking.
  • Overuse of the joint may cause excessive wear and tear of the joint due to overdoing of an activity or through repetition of an activity
  • Forceful twisting or rotating the elbow beyond the normal range of motion
  • Excessive strain on the elbow
  • Different types of arthritis (inflammation of joints and tissues) like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, post-traumatic arthritis, gout, lupus etc.

Symptoms of Elbow Ailments

The symptoms of elbow ailments depend upon the disorder and its extent (acute or chronic), But in majority of the cases, patient complains of the following problems associated with the elbow joint:

  • Pain in the elbow joint with or without movement
  • Inability to move the elbow
  • Swelling of the joint
  • Stiffness in the joint
  • Numbness or tingling sensation in the elbow that may also be present in the arm
  • Weakness in the joint that makes it unable to move
  • Warmth in the joint
  • Limping
  • Restricted physical activity
  • Bruising
  • Loud popping sounds

These are just common symptoms but patient may have other symptoms too that should not be ignored as elbow joint is one of the most important joint of our body. So anything that is not normal or is causing discomfort should be discussed with the doctor and treated accordingly.

Diagnosis of Elbow Ailments

The diagnosis of elbow ailments starts with a complete medical history of the patient. It is also required to consider family history of joint pains as some of these disorders run in families. This is followed by thorough physical examination of the joint to find any visible signs and assess its level of activity. In addition to these following diagnostic tests are almost always required to conclude the disorder:

  • X ray
  • Ultrasound
  • Bone scan
  • CAT scan
  • MRI
  • Arthroscopy
  • Biopsy

Treatment of Elbow Ailments

Treatment of elbow problems specifically depends upon the cause and extent of disorder. It is required to first evaluate the damage that has already occurred and simultaneously start the treatment that would prevent further damage. Treatment may include some of the following:

  • Medication: Oral or injectable medicines are given to reduce pain, swelling and inflammation e.g. NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
  • Physical therapy: Various types of exercises and activities are advised to the patient so as to improve the joint movement and strength.
  • Compression bandage: Wearing compression bandages or casts to immobilize the elbow joint.
  • Cortisone (steroid) injections: These are given to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Surgery: In cases of severely damaged elbow joint that cannot be managed by any of the conservative ways, surgery can prove to be beneficial for the patient.