How The Hand and Wrist Can Affect Elbow Pain

golfTo fully understand how elbow pain develops we need to first understand how the muscles of the elbow are associated with the hand. This is important because the large majority of elbow problems are associated with strain occurring at the wrist and hand, not just the elbow itself.

The hand is a very complicated area and as such there are a very large number of muscles that are associated with the hand and wrist. The majority of these muscles, especially the stronger muscles, actually run all the way from the hand, up the forearm and attach at the elbow. You can easily test this yourself by squeezing your forearm and firmly opening and closing your hand. You will feel the muscles in the forearm contract and relax as you open and close the hand. It is important to realize that even though it is a small area, there are many different muscles that attach at the elbow and travel down to the hand. These muscles are arranged in layers, and each muscle within each layer has a different job, or function. For example some of the muscles in the most superficial layer, that is the layer right under the skin, travel down and attach to the wrist. When they contract they act to flex and extend the wrist. Some of the muscles in the middle and deeper layers attach all the way into the fingers and when they contract they move the fingers, such as when making a fist or picking up objects. These deeper muscles that move the fingers have many separate tendons that go to each individual finger. This makes it possible to move one finger by itself, and enables us to carry out tasks requiring fine motor skills such as typing, buttoning a shirt, or playing the guitar.

As was previously mentioned, all of these muscles attach up at the elbow. If you were to stand with the arm straight at your side and the palm facing forward, you will be able to feel a bony prominence at the elbow on the side closest to the body. This is called the medial epicondyle. The muscles on the front of the forearm are collectively called the flexor muscles. Although there are many different muscles and many different layers of muscles, the vast majority of these muscles attach to this medial epicondyle through what is known as the common flexor tendon. There is a similar situation on the back of the forearm as well. The muscles on the back of the arm are known as the extensor muscles. The various extensor muscles attach to the lateral epicondlye, which is the body prominence on the outside of the elbow opposite the medial epicondyle.

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