The elbow can, just as the knee and shoulder be hit by several different kinds of disorders. The most common disorders shall briefly be mentioned here.
Loose elbow - unstable elbow
If the elbow has dislocated, there is a risk that it will continue to feel unstable, or it can be followed by pain behind the elbow. This is normally caused by an injured ligament. The ligament can be reconstructed.
Stiff elbow is often caused by an dislocation or a fracture. If physiotherapy, does not improve the range of movement, it can be helped out by either open surgery or arthroscopic surgery (by pinholes).
Tennis elbow or Golf elbow
These kinds of injuries are normally caused by overuse. Tennis elbow is on the inner side (with the palm turned up) and the golf elbow is on the outer side. Treatment consists of physiotherapy with eccentric exercises and eventually corticosteroid injections. Both conditions can resolve without treatment within a year or two. Failing that, the conditions can be well treated by a minor surgery.
This is often caused by a loose body catching in the joint. The loose body is normally secondary to a cartilage lesion. The loose body can be removed by an arthroscopy.
Entrapment of the plica
This is a common elbow disorder, where the plica is swollen and catches in the joint. This gives pain and sudden bustle on the outer side and is commonly mistaken as a tennis elbow. The pain is especially provoked by turning the wrist forward and backwards. Often the swollen plica can resolve by a steroid injection and if it relapses it can be easily removed by an arthroscopic procedure.
Mickey Mouse ears
In this condition there is pain on fully straightening the elbow, and sometimes there is even a mechanical stop preventing the elbow fully straightening. The problem is cause by overgrowth of bone at the back of the elbow bone. Typically this disorder is found among tennis players or boxers. The Mickey Mouse ears can be removed by arthroscopic surgery.
Osteoarthritis in the elbow
This commonly affects the elbow and an X-ray can confirm the diagnosis. If the elbow locks, an arthroscopy can be needed. In severe cases a total elbow prosthesis might be necessary
Entrapment of the Ulnar nerve
The ulnar nerve passes behind the elbow, and later it reaches the little finger and the ring finger. The nerve can get entrapped, and in severe cases a surgical release of the nerve can be needed.
Behind the elbow is a bursa and this can cause a huge swelling at the back of the elbow. Often the start is rather insidious and the bursa becomes red, painful and swollen. In some cases this can get a more chronic character and become a recurrent disorder every time the elbow is used. In the start it can be easily treated by NSAID gel and immobilisation. In more chronic cases the bursa can be removed by an arthroscopic technique.
Ruptured of the distal (lower) biceps tendon
The biceps muscle tendon attaches on the lower arm. Sometimes this can be torn off from the radius (as it can also tear off on the other end from the shoulder). If the diagnosis is made within the first few weeks it can be reinserted by surgery. If it becomes more chronic it might be necessary to do a reconstruction of the tendon, since it becomes too short.
This is often caused by a loose body catching up. The loose body is normally secondary to a cartilage lesion. The loose body can be removed by an arthroscopy
Sometimes it can be necessary to do ultrasound, X-rays or MRI scans to help with the diagnosis of elbow disorders.