Diseases of the Elbow | UnityPoint Health - Meriter

ER - Madison

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UnityPoint Health - Madison

Diseases of the Elbow


Bursitis is inflammation of the fluid-filled sac (bursa) that lies between a tendon and skin, or between a tendon and bone. The condition may be acute or chronic. Bursae are fluid-filled cavities near joints where tendons or muscles pass over bony projections. They assist movement and reduce friction between moving parts.


Bursitis can be caused by chronic overuse, trauma, rheumatoid arthritis, gout or infection. Sometimes the cause cannot be determined. Chronic inflammation can occur with repeated injuries or attacks of bursitis.


  • Tenderness 
  • Swelling or redness
  • Warmth over the joint


Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints which results in pain, swelling, stiffness, and limited movement. Arthritis involves the breakdown of cartilage, which normally protects the joint and allows for smooth movement. Cartilage also absorbs shock when pressure is placed on the joint. Without the usual amount of cartilage, the bones rub together, causing pain, swelling (inflammation), and stiffness.


You may have joint inflammation for a variety of reasons, including:

  • An autoimmune disease (the body attacks itself because the immune system believes a body part is foreign) 
  • Broken bone 
  • General "wear and tear" on joints 
  • Infection (usually caused by bacteria) 

Often the inflammation goes away after the injury has healed, the disease is treated, or the infection has been cleared. With some injuries and diseases, the inflammation does not go away or destruction results in long-term pain and deformity. When this happens, chronic arthritis can develop.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and is more likely to occur as you age. You may feel it in any of your joints, but most commonly in your hips, knees or fingers.

Risk factors for osteoarthritis of the elbow include:

  • Previously injuring the affected joint 
  • Using the affected joint in a repetitive action that puts stress on the joint (baseball players, ballet dancers, and construction workers are all at risk) 


  • Persistent joint pain 
  • Pain or tenderness in a joint which is aggravated by movement or activity, such as walking, getting up from a chair, writing, typing, holding an object, throwing a ball, turning a key. 
  • Inflammation indicated by joint swelling, stiffness, redness, and/or warmth 
  • Joint deformity 
  • Loss of range of motion or flexibility in a joint 
  • Unexplained weight loss 
  • Extreme fatigue, lack of energy, weakness, or a feeling of malaise 
  • Non-specific fever
  • Crepitus (crackling or grating feeling or sound under the skin)