The elbow joint is formed by the end of the humerus in the upper arm and the ends of the ulna and radius in the forearm. The elbow allows for the bending and straightening of the arm as well as rotation of the forearm.
Muscles and joints of the elbow can be common sources of pain (see Muscle & Joint Pain page). In addition to those, here are some elbow conditions that physical therapy can help you with:
Tennis elbow – Also known as lateral epicondylitis this is the most common overuse problem of the elbow and presents as pain on the outside of the elbow. It earned the name “tennis elbow” because of its prevalence in the sport due to the type of mechanics required to swing a tennis racquet. It is caused by repetitive wrist extension or gripping activities. The repetitive microtrauma at the elbow lead to breakdown and inflammation of the tendon(s). The extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) is typically the muscle/tendon involved in tennis elbow. You do not have to play tennis to develop tennis elbow! In fact, many people that seek treatment for this problem have never played tennis in their life. This problem can occur in other sports or activities and even without any known reason at all.
Golfer’s elbow – Also known as medial epicondylitis this is very similar to tennis elbow but involves pain on the inside of the elbow. It is common in golfers due to the mechanics of the golf swing. It results in the same damage to the tendon but typically involves the pronator teres and the flexor carpi radialis muscles. Non-golfer’s can develop this problem from other sports or daily activities as well.
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome – The carpal tunnel is an anatomical space on the inside of the elbow where the ulnar nerve passes through. When the ulnar nerve gets compressed or irritated due to tightness in the cubital tunnel or instability of the elbow, pain and/or numbness occurs in the elbow, forearm, hand, and the pinky and ring fingers. Sitting or sleep posture can contribute to this problem as well as long hours typing on a computer.
Biceps Tear – The biceps brachii is a two-headed muscle in the arm that attaches to the shoulder and the elbow. A tear of the distal biceps (down by the front of the elbow) is typically caused by a traumatic injury or rapid, intense force placed on the biceps. Most distal bicep tears require surgery to repair followed by physical therapy afterwords to restore function.