The olecranon is the top part of the ulna bone. It is the bony part of the back of the elbow – the bit that you lean on. The elbow pain originates from below the tip of the elbow where there is a sack of fluid called a bursa. A bursa is used to help lubricate the movement of tissues in joints. However if one takes a hard impact onto the back of the elbow or are constantly leaning on the elbows the bursa can become inflamed or bleeding can occur in the bursa. The result is elbow pain and swelling on the bony bit at the back of the elbow. Other names include ‘miners elbow’, ‘plumbers elbow’, etc, when the job involves crawling a lot using elbows.)
Repeated trauma is one of the common causes. For example, people who lean on their elbows a lot cause friction and repeated mild injury over the olecranon.
One-off injury such as a blow to the back of the elbow may set off inflammation.
Arthritis. One or more bursae may become inflamed as part of a generalized arthritis. (Note: most cases of olecranon bursitis are not associated with arthritis.)
Infection of a bursa. This may occur if there is a cut in the skin over a bursa which allows in bacteria.
Idiopathic Many cases occur for no apparent reason. However, it is possible that some of these are due to a mild injury that has been forgotten.
- a thickness and swelling over the back of the elbow. The bursa may also fill with fluid and it then looks like a small soft ball – a bit like a cyst.
- Elbow pain at rest and during exercise. Most cases (those not infected or associated with arthritis) are painless, or are only mildly painful.
- If the bursa is infected (‘septic’ olecranon bursitis) then you will usually develop pain, redness and tenderness behind the elbow.
- A bursitis associated with arthritis may not be painful itself, but you will have other symptoms related to the arthritis such as joint pains.
- Limited mobility in the elbow.
What can you do to combat elbow pain?
Visit Physioline for further treatment and rehabilitation
- Wear elbow guards if playing a game such as cricket where you can get hit on the elbow.
- Do not spend long periods of time leaning on the elbows.