Ulnar collateral ligament: The ulnar collateral ligament runs along the inside part of the elbow and is especially important during throwing and other overhead activities, such as tennis and volleyball. This ligament helps stabilize the elbow during the extreme torque seen with throwing and overhead sports. Injury to this ligament can range from a mild sprain to a complete tear. Depending on the severity of the injury and patient activity, treatment can range from injections and therapy to ligament repair and/or reconstruction, also know as “Tommy John reconstruction”. Another common term for this injury is “medial collateral ligament tear”.
Osteochondral Defect/Loose bodies: The elbow joint has many different unique contours, and occasionally the cartilage surface on these contours can become injured from activity. This damage to the cartilage may result in loose pieces of cartilage, and even bone, to float around the elbow joint, which may occasionally lock or catch with certain movements. If the defect or loose pieces are large or abundant enough to cause pain and regular locking or catching, they may need to be removed arthroscopically to “clean out” the elbow. Common terms for this condition are “osteochondritis dissecans”, “OCD”, “loose bodies” and “Panner’s disease”.
Tennis Elbow: Also known as “lateral epicondylitis”, the outside part of the elbow can become irritated from repeated activities involving the wrist or elbow. This irritation can take a long time to improve, though healing can be accelerated with certain braces, topical creams, exercises, and injections. Occasionally this condition does not improve and may require arthroscopic surgery to clean out the inflamed tissue.
Golfer’s elbow: Also known as “medial epicondylitis”, the inner part of the elbow can become irritated from repeated activities involving the wrist or elbow. This irritation can take a long time to improve, though healing can be accelerated with certain braces, topical creams, exercises, and injections. Occasionally this condition does not improve and may require surgery to clean out the inflamed tissue and any bone spurs.
Bursitis: The back of the elbow has a large sac of fluid that helps lubricate the elbow joint during motion, called the olecranon bursa. Sometimes repetitive elbow activity can result in inflammation of this bursa sac, resulting in pain, stiffness, and swelling in the back of the elbow. This can commonly be treated with many non-operative measures, but occasionally it needs to be removed surgically. Another common term for this injury is “olecranon bursitis”.
Cubital tunnel syndrome: The ulnar nerve lies along the inside part of the elbow, and is commonly referred to as the “funny bone” when it is accidentally struck. This nerve runs in a groove around the back and inside part of the elbow, where it can become compressed by certain activities. This compression causes the nerve to become irritated, resulting in forearm and hand pain, burning, tingling, numbness and sometimes even hand weakness. These symptoms can interfere with daily activities and sleeping. Diagnosis of the condition an be confirmed with some basic nerve tests. Cubital tunnel syndrome can often be treated with topical creams, oral medicines, and certain braces. In more severe cases, treatment may require surgery to decompress and/or even move the nerve to a less irritating position Common terms for cubital tunnel syndrome include “ulnar neuritis” or “ulnar neuropathy”.
Distal biceps rupture: The biceps muscle helps to moves the shoulder and elbow joint, and in some instances a fall or lifting a heavy object can cause the biceps tendon to tear off the bone in the forearm. While this injury is often not terribly painful, it can result in significant swelling and weakness of the elbow and forearm, particularly with activities that require the wrist to rotate, such as turning a doorknob or key. Surgery is often necessary to repair the tendon back to the bone, in order to prevent long-term weakness. Common terms for this injury include “biceps tear” or “distal biceps rupture”
Elbow arthritis: Just like many other joints in the body, the elbow can eventually wear out and cause pain. This is because the smooth joint surfaces become rough and do not glide anymore, leading to bone spurs, pain, and elbow stiffness, also known as “elbow osteoarthritis”. This stiffness often leads to decrease use of the elbow to do basic activities. Depending on the severity, elbow arthritis can be addressed with medications, injections, therapy, and arthroscopic surgery. When these techniques no longer work to relieve the pain or improve stiffness, new developments in technology allow surgeons to replace the elbow joint, just like a knee or hip replacement. A common term for elbow arthritis is “ulno-humeral arthritis”.