Reach your arm out in front of you and point your finger, now place your finger on the tip of your nose. If you were able to complete this little exercise it could be worth saying, “well done, you” to your elbow.

elbow bonesIt is tempting to say that your elbow joint is basically your upper body equivalent of the knee joint; but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. First of all, your elbow doesn’t have a patella protecting it so it has to find other ways to keep itself safe, especially because it tends to be particularly vulnerable to being bumped and slammed.

Your elbow is a hinge joint. It is comprised of the ends of three of your bones. The first end is the distal or “distant” (meaning furthest from the torso) part of your humerus bone; which extends from your shoulder to your elbow. The second parts of the hinge are the proximal (closes to torso) ulna and tibia; the bones that run from your wrist to your elbow. These three bones are notched and situated in ways that allow them to stay nicely together, almost like a loose puzzle, but allow enough room for movement; flexing, extending, and rotating. The junction of these three bones and the connecting tendons all come together to form your elbow. In between the bones are pockets of synovial fluid, a kind of lubricant that allows your joint to move smoothly in all the possible directions.

elbow musclesYour triceps, biceps, flexors and extensors; muscles of the upper and lower arm were all involved in the opening exercise, with your elbow as the intermediary that allowed them to all work together. Those muscles were connected and attached to your elbow by a variety of ligaments and tendons that also participated in their own special way to help you point and touch your nose.

Things like tennis elbow and carpal tunnel are typically caused by repetitive motion overuse and inflammation, so it’s important to make sure you stretch and move your arms in different ways. If you ever bump your elbow really hard you will notice that a little sack of fluid gathers at the tip; it feels a little squishy and weird. This happens because your Olecranon bursa which is located between your skin and the pointy part of your elbow fills up as a protective mechanism. It’s all pretty amazing when you think about it.