What’s So Funny About Your ‘Funny Bone’?
The elbow is a fascinating, yet commonly overlooked part of the body. It consists of three individual joints held together by three major ligaments, a membrane capsule of synovial fluid, and several muscle groups including the biceps and triceps. This allows intricate movement at the elbow to both bend like a hinge and rotates allowing our hand to turn. Unfortunately, we often only appreciate this functionality when something goes wrong.
The elbow is used in virtually every activity involving your hands. There are three major bones which meet at the elbow: – the humerus, which connects shoulder to the forearm; and the two bones which connect the forearm to the wrist, known as the radius and ulna. The radius gets its name from the Greek word for ‘spoke’ because of the radius bone circles around the ulna when you rotate your hand. The bony bump at the tip of the elbow is called the olecranon, and if we hit this it can cause the ulnar nerve to send a funny tingling sensation down our arm which can make us want to laugh (or cry). This is why the olecranon is sometimes referred to as the ‘funny bone.’
As the elbow is so frequently used, it is susceptible to overuse injuries. Two commonly-known overuse injuries are colloquially referred to as ‘tennis elbow’ and ‘golfer’s elbow’. They are appropriately named as these common activities require repetitive motions that, over time, can lead to pain and injury. However, such injuries can also occur as a result of other repetitive movements such as those used in the workplace. Tennis elbow is also known as lateral epicondylitis because it affects the lateral or outside bump of the elbow. This condition normally causes pain when opening the fingers. Golfer’s elbow, or medial epicondylitis, involves the inner side of the elbow. Pain in this case usually happens when making a fist.
To treat any of these conditions, arthritis.org first advises the use of the first aid approach known as RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation for the first 48 hours, and then consultation with a health professional for advice on activity modification and ongoing therapy. Your chiropractor may use special manipulation techniques and exercises to help assist with healing elbow complaints, and can also refer you elsewhere for the most appropriate treatment when necessary.