If you’ve ever bumped your elbow, you’ll know about the sharp, unpleasant pain it can cause. This is called your ‘funny bone’ – although it’s often less than funny!
Fortunately, most funny bone sensations are from minor knocks to the ulnar nerve, and only last a short time. But when pain or discomfort persists – especially tingling, weakness, numbness or aching – it could be one of the most common elbow injuries.
Elbows are a common part of the body to injure. Your elbow is made up of cartilage, ligaments, bone, and fluid, as well as a variety of muscles and tendons that allow for movement. Injuring any of these structures can result in severe pain and limited mobility.
What Are the Most Common Elbow Injuries?
The most common elbow injuries are those that result from sports or other activities, work, falls or collisions. The sports most commonly associated with elbow injuries include contact sports such as football, soccer or wrestling. Activities that involve equipment or high speed such as skiing, hockey, skating or snowboarding are also typical causes.
Types of Elbow Injuries
Most sport surgeons would agree that acute injuries are certainly the most common elbow injuries, usually caused by a sharp blow, fall or collision. This can result in twisting, bruising, jamming or bending the elbow in an unnatural way. The result is inflammation, redness, and mild to severe pain.
Typical manifestations of an acute elbow injury include:
– Bruising caused by the rupturing of blood vessels
– Ligament injury
– Tendon injury
– Pulled muscles
– Joint sprain or dislocation
– Broken bones
Another of the most common elbow injuries is overuse. These typically occur following a certain activity places a high amount of strain on the elbow joint or tissue and can often result in elbow surgery. Repetitive movements such as swinging a tennis racquet or golf club is a common example. Weight-bearing activities such as lifting heavy objects may also damage the elbow. However, low-impact activities such as typing or drumming are also possible triggers.
Problems with overuse in elbows usually show up as:
– Bursitis (aka Popeye’s elbow): A type of swelling at the back of the elbow
– Tendinosis: Microtears in the sensitive connective tissue around the elbow tendon
– Tennis elbow: Pain on the outside of the elbow, often due to overuse of the forearm
– Golfer’s elbow: The opposite to tennis elbow – pain is felt on the inside of the elbow. This is also known as Little Leaguer’s elbow in children.
– Pinched nerve: The ulnar nerve is the most commonly susceptible to pinching, usually due to repetitive activity.
– Shooter’s abscess: Caused by an infection in the elbow, often due to the injection of illegal drugs.
Elbow injuries can range from extremely mild to extremely severe, and both can be painful. The prognosis of the injury depends on the extent of the damage, and the health of the sufferer. If pain persists following an injury, it is advisable to seek medical assessment by an orthopedic specialist as soon as possible, in case surgery on the elbow is needed.