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In humans, the elbow allows us to properly place our hand in space by giving us the ability to shorten and lengthen the upper limb. If we can’t do this, our function becomes severely compromised and we need to learn compensatory movement strategies. Elbow injuries in swimmers for instance can be particularly devastating. Even minimal joint restriction can shorten their reach and make all the difference at the end of a race. Physiotherapy will aim to maintain and increase your range of movement, educate you about your condition, reduce pain and restore function. If it is appropriate, your physiotherapist will refer you to the correct medical professional when, for instance,  injections, scans or review by a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon is indicated.

Treatment may include:

  • Joint mobilisations for the elbow and the wrist
  • Passive and/or active assisted ranges of movement
  • Teaching session for relative or carer so that they can assist with passive ranges of movement when you are at home
  • Tissue massage
  • Scar tissue management
  • Ultrasound
  • Scapular stability exercises
  • Postural retraining
  • Assessment and correction of muscle imbalance
  • Assessment and correction of movement patterning and adaptive postures
  • Strengthening
  • Taping for proprioception and pain relief
  • All aspects of post-operative elbow rehabilitation
  • Fracture management and rehabilitation

Examples of conditions treated:

Olecranon Bursitis
A bursa is a friction reducing fluid filled sac found in the body where tissues need to slide over bone. Occasionally,  a bursa can become inflamed or irritated through trauma, infection or overload. When this happens it is called bursitis. The olecranon bursa is found right on the bony tip at the back of your elbow. Symptoms may include pain, swelling, redness, heat, thickening over the tip of the elbow and an inability to rest the elbow on a surface without discomfort.

The triceps brachii is a three headed muscle that runs down the back of your arm and attaches to the bony tip of your elbow. Primarily, it straightens your arm but it also assists with certain shoulder movements. If the muscle or tendon is stretched or torn, the injury is classified according to the extent of disruption to the tissue fibres.

A first degree strain is damage to a few muscle fibres,

A second degree strain is damage to a more extensive number of muscle fibres,

A third degree strain is a complete rupture of the muscle itself.

Posterior Impingement
When the arm is repeatedly straightened under a load or a force (eg: boxing, tennis, throwing, industrial work) the bony tip at the back of the elbow (the olecranon process) is repeatedly jammed into the “socket” that receives it. Subsequently, the soft tissue lining of the joint will become inflamed. Cartilage and bone can then be injured and bony spurs can sometimes form. Bony spurs will further nip and squash surrounding tissues. Initially, symptoms can be limited to tenderness and pain at the back of the elbow, particularly on straightening the arm. This can progress to an increase in pain, a feeling of locking or catching and occasionally an inability to straighten the arm fully.