Elbow

Your elbow is a hinged joint made up of 3 bones: your upper arm bone (humerus) and the two bones in your forearm (ulna and radius). Muscles, ligaments, and tendons hold the elbow joint together, to form the joint capsule- a fluid filled sac that surrounds and lubricates the joint.

Muscles
The muscles in your forearm cross the elbow and attach to the humerus. The bony bump on the outside (lateral side) of the elbow is called the lateral epicondyle, while the bump on the inside of your arm is called the medial epicondyle.

Ligaments
The important ligaments of the elbow consist of the medial collateral ligament (on the inside of the elbow) and the lateral collateral ligament (on the outside of the elbow). These ligaments work together to stabilise the elbow, holding the humerus, radius and ulna tightly together. Another ligament called the annular ligament holds the radial head tightly against the ulna.

Tendons
The tendons in your elbow attach muscle to bone. The biceps tendon attaches the biceps muscle on the front of your arm, and the triceps tendon attaches the triceps muscle to the back of your arm.

Nerves
The arm consists of nerves that travel down and move across the elbow. There are three main nerves: the radial nerve, the ulnar nerve and the medial nerve. These nerves are responsible for controlling your muscles and sensations, such as touch, pain and temperature.

Elbow Bursitis

WHAT IS AN ELBOW SPRAIN?

Bursitis occurs when there is an inflammation to the thin, fluid-filled sac called bursa. Thus, elbow bursitis occurs when there is inflammation to the bursa that is located at the bony tip of the elbow, known as the olecranon. This inflammation causes the usually-flat bursa at the olecranon to fill with fluid and swell up, resulting in elbow bursitis.

Bursa is located throughout your body, acting as cushions between bones and soft tissues, muscles, and tendons. This allows for the smooth movement of these soft tissues, muscles and tendons over bone.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF ELBOW BURSITIS?

One of the first symptoms of elbow bursitis is swelling at the elbow. The skin becomes loose, hence the swelling may not be noticeable immediately.

Other symptoms include:

  • Pain when bending the elbow and resting the elbow on a hard surface
  • Redness and warmth to the touch

WHAT ARE THE CAUSES AND RISK FACTORS OF ELBOW BURSITIS?

Common causes of elbow bursitis include:

  • Direct blow or high impact to the elbow tip
  • Leaning on the elbow for prolonged periods of time on a hard surface
  • Injury to the skin at the elbow tip, which may result in infection to the bursa such as a cut or insect bite
  • Medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout or kidney failure

WHAT IS THE DIAGNOSIS OF ELBOW BURSITIS?

A history of the injury and a physical examination of the elbow will be conducted by the Doctor.

Imaging tests will be taken, such as an x-ray to check for bone spurs. He may also take a sample of the fluid at your elbow, to determine the cause of the bursitis.

WHAT ARE THE TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR ELBOW BURSITIS?

There are several treatment options available for elbow bursitis. Nonsurgical treatment options include:

  • Resting the elbow joint

Resting the joint can help as it avoids irritating the bursa if it is due to repetitive elbow motions such as playing sports or leaning on your elbows. By reducing irritation, this will help the bursitis to recover faster.

  • Applying ice or heat

Icing the elbow can help to reduce swelling and inflammation, while heat can help decrease stiffness and soothe the discomfort experienced in your elbow.

  • Medications such as over-the-counter pain relievers

This includes acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen to reduce pain and inflammation.

  • Steroid injections such as corticosteroid

Corticosteroid injection can be directly injected into your elbow to help reduce pain, inflammation and swelling.

  • Elbow supports such as elbow pads

An elbow pad can cushion and protect your elbow while you do daily activities. By wrapping around the elbow, it causes compression and heat which can assist in healing your bursitis.

  • Physiotherapy

Gentle exercises for your elbow can help you regain muscle strength, and possibly prevent elbow problems in the future.

  • Aspirating

If it is suspected that your bursitis is caused by an infection, the doctor may drain the fluid from your bursa using a needle in a process called aspirating. Based on the fluid drained, the doctor can identify the type of infection as well.

Should nonsurgical treatments fail to alleviate your symptoms, surgery may be recommended to remove the bursa. However, surgery is rarely recommended as it is easy to get an infection.

 

Top