Elbow

The elbow is one of the most regularly used joints in the body. It is located in the center of the arm, providing versatility to the arm. The elbow is also prone to injury, as a contact point for trauma and repetitive stress injuries.  Read More
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Written and medically reviewed by the Healthline Editorial Team
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In Depth: Elbow

The elbow is one of the largest joints in the body. In conjunction with the shoulder joint and wrist, the elbow gives the arm much of its versatility.

The elbow swings 180 degrees in one direction to extend the forearm, and it also helps turn the forearm at the point where the parallel bones in the forearm—the radius and ulna—meet.

Joints are held together through a series of ligaments. The major ligaments that connect the bones of the elbow include the ulnar collateral ligament, radial collateral ligament, and annular ligament.

Several major muscles and tendons—fibrous bands that join muscles to bone or muscles to other muscles—meet at the elbow, such as the bicep, tricep, brachioradialis, and extensor carpi radialis longus.

The resting angle of the elbow prevents the arms from hitting the sides of your body as you walk. This is known as the “carrying angle.” Women typically have smaller shoulders and wider hips than men, and this can cause variations between carrying angles in men and women. This can also lead to different ways people carry objects to keep their elbows closer to their bodies based on their individual carrying angle.

The elbow is frequently used as a fulcrum for seated activities that involve the hands, such as writing or using a keyboard. This would be painful if the skin at the olecanon (the cap end of the ulna) had nerve endings, but the stretchy skin in that area has no feeling.

The elbow can be easily put under stress, as it is a major joint in one of the most active regions of the human body. It is put under extreme pressure as the point of injury or trauma. Because it has fewer planes of movement than the wrist or the shoulder, it can be painful when twisted or hyperextended.  

Some common ailments of the elbow include:

  • Tennis elbow
  • Golfer’s elbow
  • Tendonitis
  • Arthritis
  • Dislocation
  • Fracture
  • Infection

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