The Elbow Joint Explained

Like the joints in your fingers the elbow is considered a hinge joint, which means that it allows for motion forward and back (flexion and extension) with very minimal twisting. The elbow joins together three bones, the humerus in the upper arm and the radius and ulna in the lower arm. The funny bone in your elbow is a large bony projection from the ulna called the olecranon. A membrane surrounds the entire joint with ligaments joining the three bones together. Two tendons, which attach the bones in your elbow to your muscle, are the primary facilitators or joint movement.

Potential Causes of Elbow Pain

There are quite a few reasons for pain to be occurring in your elbow. Sudden injury, repetitive motion, infections, inflammation, and diseases are all common causes of pain to the elbow.

Elbow Injuries

Injuries can include fractures to the joint, sprains, strains, dislocation, and torn ligaments. Another potential injury related condition, called osteochondritis dissecans, occurs when a small piece of cartilage and bone is separated causing the potential for the elbow to lock in place. Elbow injuries usually occur following a sudden trauma, like hyperextension or impacts, as opposed to repetitive motion injuries and syndromes.

Infections In The Elbow

An infection can occur spontaneously but also may be seen after a surgery or infection elsewhere in the body. Of course an untreated cut or break in the skin near the elbow can also lead to an infection. An infection can cause other issues, namely inflammation, to manifest

Repetitive Motion

Golfers elbow and tennis elbow are two common repetitive motion syndromes that occur in the elbows of adults. Pitchers elbow is another repetitive motion injury that usually only affects growing kids that take part in sports that require throwing, like baseball.


Usually an inflammation in the elbow is secondary to another issue. Disease, injury or infection can all cause inflammation in the elbow. The most common inflammations are bursitis, an inflammation in a small sac of fluid near the olecranon, and tendinitis, irritation of one of the tendons.


Rheumatic diseases are usually the culprits when a disease is causing elbow pain. Arthritis is commonly seen in the elbows of individuals who already are dealing with rheumatoid arthritis. Wear and tear on the joint can cause osteoarthritis. Both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis can cause mild to sever pain in the elbow.

When To Visit A Physician

If you have any of the below symptoms, or have any other concerns about your elbow, please schedule online with an IBJI orthopedic physician today.

The specific symptoms that signal the need to immediately schedule a visit with one of our doctors are:

  • The pain is ongoing without relief
  • A direct injury to the elbow preceded the pain
  • You suspect tendinitis or infection
  • The elbow is unusable
  • There is redness and swelling in the elbow
  • You experience a fever
  • Your elbow is deformed
  • The pain is sudden and unbearable
  • Anytime your child has elbow pain

The Illinois Bone and Joint Institutes doctors are the right choice for help with any kind of chronic or orthopedic pain relief. Call and Schedule online today

*This content is for information only and is not intended to replace the diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice from your treating healthcare professionals. The content does not provide medical advice, does not constitute the practice of medicine or other healthcare professional services, and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. You should not rely on this information as a substitute, nor does it replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have concerns or questions, seek the advice of your healthcare professionals. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. Do not rely on electronic communications or communicate through this website for immediate, urgent medical needs. This website is not designed to facilitate medical emergencies. The use of the information is at the reader’s own risk. The links are provided for information and convenience only. We cannot accept responsibility for the sites linked or the information found here. A link does not imply an endorsement of a site.

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