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Anatomy of the Elbow

Elbow pain is extremely common and has a number of causes. It is important that an accurate diagnosis of the cause of your symptoms is made so that appropriate treatment can be started.

Elbow Joint AnatomyAnatomy of the Elbow

The elbow is a hinge joint made up of the humerus, ulna and radius. The unique positioning and interaction of the bones in the joint allows for a small amount of rotation as well as hinge action. This rotation is easily noticed during activities such as hand-to-mouth eating motions.

Symptoms of an Elbow Injury

The location and severity of elbow pain may vary, depending on the cause of the problem. Signs and symptoms that sometimes accompany elbow pain include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling and stiffness
  • Redness and warmth to the touch
  • Weakness or instability
  • Popping or crunching noises
  • Inability to fully move the elbow
  • Pins and needles
  • Numbness

For patients suffering from elbow pain, the first step to recovery is to receive a proper diagnosis so the cause of the symptoms can be determined.

If you feel you have a potential infection in the elbow or a fracture, urgent medical attention should be sought.

Causes of Elbow Pain

There are a number of elbow conditions which cause elbow pain. It is important to make an accurate diagnosis of the cause of your symptoms so that appropriate treatment can be directed at the cause.

  • Bursitis
  • Dislocated elbow
  • Fracture
  • Golfer’s elbow
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Osteochondritis dissecans
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sprains and strains
  • Stress fractures
  • Tendinitis
  • Tennis elbow
  • Throwing injuries
  • Trapped nerves
  • Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

With all elbow conditions the most important part of treatment is getting your elbow injury correctly diagnosed.  We achieve this by conducting comprehensive examinations of the ligaments, cartilage, muscles and tendons in and around the elbow joint.

As part of our multi-disciplinary team, our specialists have access to MRI facilities and together with our specialist practitioners.

Investigations for Elbow Pain and Injury

Like every joint evaluation, the start to a diagnosis is a consultation followed by a physical examination. Your specialist will inspect your elbow for swelling, pain, tenderness, warmth and visible bruising. A visual assessment is followed by evaluation of the movement and specific orthopaedic tests to determine integrity.

After a provisional diagnosis is made by your specialist, it may be suggested you have the joint imaged by:

  • X-ray
  • MRI Scan
  • CT Scan
  • Ultrasound

If your specialist suspects an infection or arthritis you may be recommended a series of have blood tests .

On rare occasions your specialist may request a nerve conduction study to look for nerve injury and compression.

Treatment for Elbow Pain

Throughout your diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation, dedicated team members will continue to work hard to ensure you can get back to enjoying life with the most comfort, mobility, and functionality possible.

Healthplus Clinics has assembled a group of Elbow Pain Specialists to provide complete surgical and non-surgical treatments. Our team of Elbow Specialists includes: Elbow Surgeons, Pain Specialists, Podiatrists, and specially trained Elbow Physiotherapists.

Non-Surgical Elbow Treatments and Procedures

  • Specialist Elbow Physiotherapy
  • Shockwave Therapy
  • Elbow Acupuncture
  • Electrotherapy

Elbow Pain Management Procedures

  • Joint Injection
  • Tendon Injection for Golfers and Tennis Elbow

Surgical Elbow Treatments and Procedures

  • Arthroscopy
  • Debris removal
  • Bone spur removal
  • Joint capsule loosening
  • Cartilage repair
  • Golfers and tennis elbow surgery
  • Fracture fixation
  • Olecranon aspiration surgery
  • Open Athrolysis of the elbow
Complications of Elbow Pain and Injury

Chronic pain

Once your ligaments are stretched or torn, they need about eight weeks to be fully healed and are pain free. But other problems might go undiagnosed, like a bone fracture, tear in the cartilage, nerve damage or a torn tendon. Delaying treatment of these other conditions leads to continued pain, weakness, giving way and disruption of your normal daily activities.

Instability of the Elbow Joint

An elbow ligament sprain can heal incorrectly, leaving your ligaments permanently stretched. This causes your elbow to be weak and unstable, frequently resulting in abnormal movement. If this happens, you will are likely to recurrently sprain causing swelling and pain.


Stiffness usually happens because of severe inflammation swelling at the site of the injury and scar tissue. Stiffness most often results in pain and even osteoarthritis. The longer the elbow is encased in plaster cast immobilisation the stiffer the elbow will become.


When the elbow does not heal properly, localized swelling occurs causing a limited range of motion and an inability to participate in your usual routine.

Early onset arthritis in the Elbow Joint

When a joint functions incorrectly following injury there is a possibility that over a period of time premature arthritis can occur.

Most patients will not encounter problems after orthopaedic surgery. As with any surgery, however, there are potential risks, including: reaction to anesthesia, bleeding, infection, blood clots, nerve damage, lack of full range of motion, development of arthritis, scar formation, or re-injury of the joint or soft tissue.

Volkmann ischemic contracture can occur with damage to the brachial artery being compressed following fracture.

Another complication is heteroptopic ossification or unwanted bone growth in the joint. This is more likely with a severe traumatic injury or if mobility exercises are forced or manipulated.

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