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, as well as structure and durability.

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 by a network of ligaments. Ligaments are made of tough, flexible connective tissue. In addition to their role holding joints together, ligaments can also connect bones and cartilages. 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. These include the biceps, triceps, brachioradialis, and extensor carpi radialis longus tendons.

The resting angle of the elbow prevents the arms from hitting the sides of your body as you walk. This is also known as the “carrying angle.” Women typically have smaller shoulders and wider hips than men.  This results in variations between carrying angles in men versus 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 thick, rubbery skin in that area has no sensations.

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
  • Bursitis                                         
  • Arthritis
  • Dislocation
  • Fracture
  • Infection