elbow ligament



Your elbow is a complex joint that allows for a combination of mobility and stability. The ligaments of your joint play an essential role in maintaining stability to your elbow. If you have suffered an elbow ligament injury, your physical therapist can help you regain full mobility and strength so you can return to your previous level of function and activity.

An elbow injury can be a painful experience that may require the skilled services of a physical therapist. Learning about the different elbow ligaments and muscles and the common injuries of the elbow can help you understand your specific injury and rehab if you suffer an elbow injury.

Anatomy of the Elbow

The elbow joint is formed by three bones: the humerus, radius, and ulna. Articulations between the trochlea of the humerus with the ulna and the capitulum of the humerus with the head of the radius comprise the joint. The elbow is an example of a hinge joint or a joint that moves in only one direction. Your elbow joint bends and straightens like a hinge on a door.

The Elbow’s Ligaments

Ligaments are strong pieces of cartilage that connect one bone to another. They help provide support to your joints while still allowing for a motion to occur. Ligaments are essential for providing your elbow joint with stability while still allowing for a motion to occur.

Three ligaments are present in the elbow joint: the ulnar collateral ligament, the radial collateral ligament, and the annular ligament. These ligaments provide strength and support to the elbow joint along with the surrounding muscles or your arm and forearm. If an injury occurs to the elbow joint, any one of these ligaments may be injured.

Common Injuries

Elbow Tendon and Ligament Tears

The most common tendon, ligament and muscle tears around the elbow include:

  • Biceps tears
  • Golfers elbow
  • Tennis elbow
  • Triceps tears
  • Ulnar collateral ligament injuries

Each of these injuries has unique causes, symptoms, and treatments. The team at TriHealth Orthopedics & Sports Institute will work closely with you to find the right path to get you back to your favorite activities.

Elbow ligament and tendon tear causes

Ligament and tendon tears are most often caused by overuse from sports, like golf, tennis, baseball, or jobs that require overhead swinging, like carpentry or manufacturing. Traumatic injury, like a sudden blow, can also cause a ligament or tendon tear around the elbow.

A common way to injure your elbow is via a fall on an outstretched hand (FOOSH) If you fall down and try to break your fall by reaching out your hand, you may place excessive stress on your elbow’s ligaments, causing an injury. Injuries to ligaments may include overstretching or tearing.

Elbow ligament and tendon tear symptoms

Symptoms of an elbow ligament or tendon tear can vary based on the injury and location. You may experience:

  • Pain and tenderness around the injury
  • Reduced range of motion around the arm, elbow, forearm, or wrist
  • Stiffness around the elbow
  • Swelling
  • Weakness in the hands and wrists

First Steps of Treatment

If you have suffered an elbow injury or have elbow pain, there are a few things you should do to start treatment right away. First, you should check in with your doctor to rule out any serious injury to your elbow’s ligaments or bones. The last thing you want is to treat a serious elbow fracture like a minor strain.

After an elbow injury, you may benefit from using the R.I.C.E. method to help control the inflammation process.3 The RICE acronym stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Rest your elbow, apply an ice pack, and elevate your arm to minimize the swelling.

Some physical therapists are now advocating the P.O.L.I.C.E. principle of injury management. This stands for protection, optimal loading, ice, compression, and elevation. This principle takes out the rest and adds some protection to your joint while still allowing for some motion to your elbow as it heals.

You may benefit from a gentle range of motion exercises for your elbow after an injury. Visit your physical therapist for a complete assessment to see which exercises you should do to get your elbow moving.

After a ligament injury to your elbow, you may also benefit from strengthening exercises for your forearm and wrist to help provide muscular support to your elbow. Again, your PT can prescribe the correct exercises for your condition.

Once you and your doctor know what’s exactly causing your pain, your orthopedic specialist will create a plan that helps you return to activity. If your tendon or ligament tear is severe, you may need surgery right away:

  • Ulnar collateral ligament injury – Tommy John surgery can help repair or reconstruct the damaged ligament.
  • Biceps tear – Repairing a tear to the biceps can usually be done through a minimally invasive procedure. During surgery, your surgeon will reattach the tendon to where it belongs. Then, you’ll start physical therapy to strengthen the muscles so you can return to activity.
  • Triceps tear – A tear to the triceps muscle calls for surgery to restore function to your arm. Your surgeon will reattach the tendon and you’ll start physical rehabilitation as quickly as possible.

Golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow don’t always require surgery. Sometimes, a conservative treatment approach that includes medication, lifestyle modification, and physical therapy can relieve your pain and restore your function.

Elbow ligaments and tendon tears risk factors

You may be at higher risk of tearing the ligaments, muscles or tendons around your elbow if you:

  • Are older
  • Are overweight or obese
  • Repeatedly move your arm or forearm in a sport or occupation
  • Use tobacco

Elbow ligaments and tendon tear prevention

You may not be able to completely prevent an injury to your elbow, but there are steps you can take to keep yourself healthy, active and enjoying your favorite sport:

  • Always use proper lifting, throwing or hitting technique
  • Rest when your body need to
  • Strengthen forearm muscles
  • Stretch before you play or work
  • Use proper form
  • Use the right equipment for your body and skill-level
  • Warm up before and cool down after all physical activity

Please let us know if you have any questions and do leave a comment

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Total Orthocare

59 A, MNR Complex,
Near Steel Factory Bus Stop,
DoddaBanaswadi Main Road,
Bengaluru-560043 Phone: 080-4370 1281 Mobile: 9591618833

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