What it is

The elbow joint is formed by three bones, the humerus (upper arm), radius laterally and ulna medially (forearm). Many muscles originate or insert near the elbow including muscles that mainly flex, extend or rotate the wrist.

What it does

Your elbow joint acts as a hinge, allowing the arm to flex and extend in one direction. Additionally, it allows the radius to rotate around the ulna, which makes wrist rotation possible.  This motion allows you to hold your palm up, like when you receive money, or to hold your palm down, like when you type on the computer.

Common injuries

The most common adult injury is tendinitis or tennis elbow.

The large amount of muscles and ligaments around the elbow make it a common site for injury. The most common adult injury is tendinitis or tennis elbow. This inflammation of the elbow causes pain on the boney point of the elbow.  It is often made worse with grasping or lifting activities like holding a hammer or lifting a milk jug from the refrigerator.

Fractures and dislocation are also very common in children and adolescents. These usually result from falls or sports related injuries.


Most problems in the elbow are due to overuse in adults and injury in children, so use caution and do not ignore persistent pain. Also, use caution when children are participating in playground and sporting activities.


Rest for these muscles, along with anti-inflammatory medications will usually bring about recovery. However, if you experience elbow pain that persists longer than a few days, swelling or significant bruising, elbow pain that occurs while you are at rest, are unable to straighten or flex your arm, or you have difficulty carrying objects, visit a doctor.

When deciding if you should bring your child in after an injury, take note of any deformity, or if the child is unwilling to use their elbow for longer than 24 hours. These are signs that a fracture may have occurred.