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1. Extensor tendinopathy (‘tennis elbow’)

Commonly referred to as ‘tennis elbow’, extensor tendinopathy refers to degeneration and inflammation within the tendons on the outside of the elbow. These tendons connect the forearm muscles to the arm bone. Extensor tendinopathy is a common injury associated with activities requiring repetitive use of the wrist and hand, and results from overuse of the tendons on the outside of the forearm. Repetitive use of the forearm muscles and, therefore, the forearm tendons can lead to microscopic tears within the tendons and degeneration or breakdown of the tendons. To repair this degeneration the body commences an inflammatory response.

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2. Ulnar nerve compression at the elbow

Ulnar nerve compression refers to when the ulnar nerve is compressed as it passes behind the bony bump on the inside of the elbow. This bony bump is often referred to as the ‘funny bone’. Ulnar nerve compression typically occurs following a direct blow to the nerve as it passes behind the inside of the elbow. This can occur when you use your elbow to break your fall and when you bang your elbow on a hard surface such as a table. This may injure the nerve directly and interfere with the transmission of signals along it. Alternatively, it may injure structures surrounding the nerve. To repair damage to these structures, the body commences an inflammatory response. This inflammation around the nerve may compress it and interfere with the transmission of signals.

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3. Olecranon bursitis

Also known as ‘student’s elbow’, olecranon bursitis refers to inflammation and swelling of the bursa located between the point of the elbow (olecranon) and overlying skin. A bursa is a fluid-filled sac which allows adjacent tissues to slide over one another without friction. Olecranon bursitis occurs when the olecranon bursa is damaged or irritated. This can occur following either a single injury or a series of injuries to the bursa. Injury may result from a direct blow to the point of the elbow such as falling on a hard surface with your elbow being used to stop the fall. This can damage blood vessels within the olecranon bursa, causing bleeding. The blood in the bursa causes an inflammatory response resulting in swelling of the bursa and subsequent bursitis. Another cause of olecranon bursitis is repeated minor trauma. This can occur when you repeatedly rest on your elbows on a hard surface for long periods of time such as when working or studying. This increases wear and tear on the bursa causing microtrauma which, over time, can result in bursal thickening, inflammation and bursitis.

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