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Consider the lowly elbow

by Jerry Vance

I didn’t give the lowly elbow any consideration until I fell on mine two weeks ago. It’s amazing what you can’t do without the use of your elbow and its adjoining muscles.

Three bones make up the elbow joint: the humerus, radius and ulna. The names hold no interest to the everyday fitness student until the elbow won’t bend. Now you can’t do your push-ups (darn), and using your arms for support during floor work is impossible.

The ulna, the longest forearm bone, attaches to the upper-arm bone, or humerus, to allow the hinge motion of your elbow. The radius bone is rounded and within the joint itself. It is the bone that allows the turning radius of the forearm.

Now for the ligaments. They hold everything together and form a sleeve that runs around the upper bone and around the lower bones. They allow the elbow to bend and realign, much like the sleeve of your shirt.

Children have a growth center at the meeting ends of the three bones called prebone. It is not as strong as the adult bone and is easily injured. If so, it can disrupt the growth within the joint. So with my elbow joint injury, I had the advantage that my joints were already set.

There are four movements your elbow is capable of: up, down, supination and pronation. Up and down, you know; it’s the motion to bring food to your mouth. Supination and pronation are a little harder to explain.

Hold your hands out, palms up; now turn your palms down. If you hold your elbows tight against your waist, you will see the turning of the joint and the radius and ulna bones. This movement is what you use for writing and catching rain.

An elbow sprain, which is what I suffered, is a stretching or tearing of the ligaments around it, plus the bruising of the joint itself. Common places to achieve this injury are on a football field, in gymnastics or in any contact sport. My injury was in a dark garage while tripping over “things.”

The old recipe for treating a mild elbow injury works! Lots of ice and heat, and no push-ups for a while. My medical book says to re-evaluate the injury the next morning when it can look the worst. It doesn’t take long to recover from an elbow sprain if you have a mild one and can get ice on it quickly. See your doctor if your pain persists. Plan on spending a lot of time in your hot tub then enjoy all the sympathy you receive.

Jerry Vance is certified by the American Council on Exercise and teaches fitness at the Carson City Community Center and Healthsmart.