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Massage Today
October, 2006, Vol. 06, Issue 10

Pain on Passive Motions of the Elbow

By Ben Benjamin, PhD

Question: If passive flexion and passive extension of the elbow are painful and limited, what structure is injured?

Answer: The elbow joint.

The elbow joint is a complex structure located at the juncture of three separate bones: the humerus, the ulna and the radius.

Model extends her arm with the help of Dr. Benjamin. - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Extension of the elbow. It's primarily a hinge joint, with portions of the joint able to pronate and supinate. The bone surfaces are held together by a joint capsule containing four thickened portions, which generally are described as separate ligaments: the ulnar collateral ligament, the radial collateral ligament, and the anterior and posterior ligaments of the elbow. Within the joint capsule lies the synovial membrane.

Model flexs her arm with the help of Dr. Benjamin. - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Flexion of the elbow. The elbow joint might be injured through a single trauma, such as a fall, or by repeated mini-traumas, such as using a hammer for several hours at a time. When this happens, synovial fluid is overproduced, and this limits the actions of the elbow. In addition, inflammation within the joint makes it painful to fully flex or fully extend the elbow. The person might feel pain when performing a variety of motions that cause stress to the joint, such as lifting, biking and prolonged typing.

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