Your elbows are essential joints in your arms that play a critical role in your daily activities. They enable you to bend, lift, reach and perform a range of movements. Each elbow joint is a complex structure made up of bones, tendons and ligaments working together to provide both flexibility and strength.

The Anatomy of Our Elbows

  • Bones: The elbow joint is where three bones meet – the humerus (upper arm bone), radius and ulna (forearm bones).
  • Joints: The main elbow joint allows for bending and straightening, while the smaller joints in the area provide rotational movement.
  • Tendons and Ligaments: These are crucial for connecting bones to muscles and providing stability. The biceps tendon, for example, attaches the biceps muscle to the radius, enabling arm movement.

How Elbows Function

  • Support and Stability: Elbows provide crucial support for arm movements, especially during tasks that require precision, like writing or typing.
  • Leverage: The unique structure of the elbow joint allows for effective leverage, which is essential in lifting and carrying objects.
  • Shock Absorption: When you engage in activities like catching or throwing, your elbows help absorb and distribute the shock, protecting the joint from injury.
  • Coordination With Hands and Shoulders: Elbows work in conjunction with the wrists and shoulders, enabling coordinated movements for complex tasks.
  • Flexibility: The elbow’s ability to flex and extend is vital for tasks like reaching overhead, pushing, and pulling.
  • Rotation: Elbows allow for the rotation of the forearm, enabling you to turn your palms up or down.

Understanding Elbow Injuries and Conditions

Elbow injuries and conditions can arise from various activities, lifestyle factors or as a part of aging. Active individuals, particularly athletes, often experience elbow issues due to repetitive motions like throwing or lifting, leading to strains or conditions such as tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow. Work-related activities that involve consistent arm movements can also strain the elbow. Accidents, such as falls, can result in more acute injuries like sprains, dislocations or fractures. As people age, the wear and tear on the elbow joints can lead to arthritis, characterized by pain and decreased mobility.

Impact on Your Daily Life

When your elbow suffers an injury or bothersome condition, it affects your ability to perform even routine tasks throughout the day. You may experience pain, reduced mobility and difficulty when attempting activities that require arm movement. These concerns highlight the importance of proper elbow care and attention to joint health. Whether for daily activities or specific tasks, maintaining healthy elbows is essential for a balanced and active lifestyle.

Treatment and Care at the Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio

Fortunately, the Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio offers a variety of treatments to relieve your elbow pain and restore your mobility. Whether you require medication, physical therapy or surgical correction, we can provide you with comprehensive diagnostic services and help develop the right treatment plan for your needs.

Common Elbow Injuries and Conditions Requiring Treatment

Recognizing the types of injuries and conditions that affect the elbow is the first step in finding an appropriate treatment. There are numerous elbow issues we diagnose and treat at the Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio, including but not limited to the following:

Biceps Tendon Rupture

The tendons that attach the biceps muscle to the upper arm bone can sometimes tear or rupture. Although the arm may remain operational, the function may be reduced or restricted. A biceps tendon rupture can be partial or complete, with the complete rupture causing more significant functional impairment.

Biceps tendon ruptures typically occur when there is sudden, forceful stress on the tendon, often during heavy lifting or sports. This injury is characterized by a sharp pain in the upper arm, sometimes accompanied by an audible pop. There might be visible bruising and a bulging appearance (referred to as “Popeye muscle”) where the muscle retracts.

Since these ruptures don’t heal on their own, surgery is usually recommended, especially for active individuals or those who require full arm strength for work or sports. The surgical procedure involves reattaching the torn tendon to the bone, followed by a period of immobilization. After surgery, a structured physical therapy program focusing on gradual strength and flexibility exercises is crucial for a complete and successful recovery.

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome typically arises from prolonged pressure on the ulnar nerve, also known as the “funny bone,” which runs along the inside of the elbow. This can happen due to repetitive elbow bending, leaning on the elbow for long periods or even from fluid buildup around the elbow joint. The syndrome is characterized by numbness and tingling in the hand, especially in the ring and little fingers, and decreased hand grip strength and coordination. In chronic cases, muscle atrophy in the hand can occur.

Conservative treatments include using elbow pads, avoiding pressure on the elbow, and exercises to strengthen the surrounding muscles. If these measures fail to alleviate symptoms, surgical intervention may be required. Surgery typically involves releasing the nerve, sometimes moving it to a position where it’s less likely to be compressed. Post-surgery, physical therapy is important to regain full function and prevent recurrence of the condition.

Elbow Arthritis

Elbow arthritis, often a form of osteoarthritis, occurs as the protective cartilage in the elbow joint gradually deteriorates over time. This wear and tear can be accelerated by joint injuries, such as fractures or dislocations, leading to the early onset of arthritis. The condition is marked by symptoms like aching pain, stiffness and swelling in the elbow. These symptoms typically worsen with activity, especially movements that strain the joint.

Treatment for elbow arthritis includes a range of nonsurgical options like physical therapy and pain management through medications or corticosteroid injections. For cases where nonsurgical treatments are insufficient, surgical options such as joint debridement, arthroscopy, or, in severe cases, elbow joint replacement may be considered. Lifestyle modifications, like activity adjustments and weight management, also play a critical role in managing symptoms and slowing progression.

Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, usually develops from repetitive motions that strain the tendons and muscles of the forearm, leading to inflammation and pain around the elbow. Common activities causing this include racket sports and jobs that involve repetitive gripping or lifting. Symptoms often include aching pain on the outside of the elbow, which can radiate into the forearm and worsen with gripping or lifting movements.

Initial treatment typically focuses on rest and avoiding activities that exacerbate the condition. Ice, anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy exercises to strengthen and stretch the forearm muscles are commonly used. Brace or strap support may also be recommended to reduce strain on the affected area. If these conservative treatments fail to provide relief, more advanced therapies like corticosteroid injections might be considered. Surgery is generally reserved for cases where all other treatments have not provided adequate relief and the condition significantly impacts daily activities.

Golfer’s Elbow

Golfer’s elbow, or medial epicondylitis, is primarily caused by repetitive wrist and arm motions that strain the tendons on the inside of the forearm. This condition can affect anyone who engages in activities involving gripping or wrist flexion, like throwing sports or certain manual jobs. Common symptoms include pain and tenderness on the inside of the elbow, sometimes extending along the inner forearm, and a weakened grip.

The first line of treatment typically involves rest to allow the tendons to heal, coupled with ice therapy to reduce pain and swelling. Physical therapy plays a crucial role, focusing on exercises that stretch and strengthen the forearm muscles. Braces or straps may also be used to reduce tendon strain during activities. Surgery is rarely needed for this condition.

Elbow Dislocation

An elbow dislocation typically happens due to a fall or a direct blow, often when the hand is extended during the impact. This forceful event pushes the bones of the elbow out of their normal alignment. Symptoms of an elbow dislocation include severe pain, obvious deformity and inability to bend the elbow. Swelling and bruising around the elbow are also common.

In most cases, our surgeons can put the bones back into alignment manually with a process known as reduction. After the reduction, your elbow may be immobilized temporarily with a splint or sling. Following immobilization, physical therapy is crucial to restore a normal range of motion and strength to the joint. Surgical intervention might be necessary to repair these structures if there are additional injuries like fractures or significant soft tissue damage.

Elbow Sprains and Fractures

Elbow sprains occur when the ligaments, which connect bone to bone within the joint, are stretched or torn, often due to a sudden twist or impact. Symptoms typically include pain, swelling and limited movement. In contrast, elbow fractures involve a crack or break in one or more of the bones forming the elbow, usually resulting from a direct blow or fall. These are characterized by intense pain, swelling, bruising and an inability to move the elbow normally.

For treating sprains, the focus is on reducing swelling and pain, often through rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE method), followed by physical therapy to regain strength and flexibility. Fractures may require immobilization in a cast or splint to promote proper healing of the bone. In more severe cases, particularly when the bone fragments are displaced, surgical intervention may be necessary to realign and stabilize the bones.

Treatment Options for Elbow Injuries and Conditions

Depending on the nature of your condition or injury, we may recommend one or more of the following treatments:

Medications and Injections

Anti-inflammatory drugs and steroid injections may be used over the short term to relieve pain, reduce swelling and restore mobility. These are frequently prescribed in conjunction with a period of resting the joint in the early stages of treatment or for flare-ups of chronic conditions.


Immobilization using a splint or cast may be recommended to allow for proper healing of injured bones and ligaments. This treatment helps maintain the correct alignment and prevents further injury to the affected area during the healing process. Immobilization is a common approach to elbow fractures but can also be used effectively for other types of injuries.

Physical Therapy

Exercises under the guidance of a licensed physical therapist can restore strength to the elbow joint as well as range of motion. Physical therapy may be prescribed as a stand-alone treatment, such as for managing chronic conditions, or after immobilization or surgery to help you regain the full function of your elbow.

Elbow Arthroscopy

Elbow arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical method that allows our surgeon to see inside the elbow joint. Through small incisions and the use of a tiny camera, the surgeon can make an accurate diagnosis and recommend the proper course of treatment. In some cases, damage can also be corrected during the procedure.


Surgery is generally regarded as a last line of treatment when other therapies do not produce the desired effect. Depending on your needs, various operations can be done to repair the joint or replace it entirely.

Find Lasting Relief: Expert Solutions for Elbow Pain and Injuries

At the Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio, we understand the impact an elbow injury or disorder can have on your entire life, and our goal is to find the best way to help you heal and feel better. We offer comprehensive diagnostics and a range of treatment options to reduce pain, restore mobility and help you get back to your daily activities as quickly as possible.

To learn more, contact the Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio today at 419-222-6622 or request your appointment online.