The elbow joint is a typical hinge joint formed by the humerus bone in the upper arm and the radius and ulna in the lower arm. The bony portion on the back of the elbow joint is referred to as the olecranon process. This is the upper most part of the ulna bone.
This olecronon process is covered by a small sac containing fluid. This sac is referred to as a bursa. The primary function of the bursa is to provide smooth movement between the bones and protect the edges of the bones from wear and tear.
Inflammation of the bursa in the elbow joint is referred to as olecronon bursitis. This condition results in swelling and collection of fluid in the elbow.
What Causes Fluid On The Elbow?
There are some causes that are linked to bursitis and result in accumulation of fluid in the elbow,
- Injury to the elbow joint is the primary cause. The injuries may be mild and repetitive in nature or may be one time but severe.
- Arthritis (rheumatoid) is a more common cause of this condition. Though osteoarthritis of the elbow is less frequently seen, it can also be one of the possible causative factors.
- Inflammation of the bursa following a spread of infection after an injury to the skin is another contributing factor.
- In some cases, the exact cause for the condition is not clearly understood. In such cases it is referred to as idiopathic in nature.
Symptoms Of Fluid On Elbow
The symptoms depend upon the severity of the inflammation and the causative factors. In most cases, the inflammation is mild in nature with mild or no pain. The bursa may appear slightly enlarged as a result of swelling. In general the movements of the elbow joint are not affected.
If the bursa is infected, it can result in excruciating pain, tenderness and redness.
Home Remedies For Fluid In The Elbow
Before trying home remedies, it is essential to confirm the cause and rule out other differential diagnosis. A simple X ray of the elbow joint helps rule of fracture or bone anomalies. RA factor test can help rule out arthritis. There are some home remedies and natural treatments that can prove beneficial,
- RICE therapy characterized by Rest, Cold Compress (or ice compress) and keeping the elbow elevated to help in natural drainage of the bursa, due to gravity.
- Turmeric with raw honey is as effective as NSAIDs in relieving pain and inflammation. Add equal parts of turmeric and raw honey and prepare a paste. Consume this thrice a day.
- Simple exercises of the elbow joint (with movements limited to by sensitivity to pain) are helpful. These exercises help improve blood flow and strengthen the joint.
- Massage the elbow joint with clove essential oil. Clove has a soothing effect on the muscles, while massaging can help in natural drainage of accumulated fluids from the elbow joint.
Alternative therapy options include the use of ultrasound or electric therapy, which has been effective in some cases. Homeopathic drugs like Rhus Tox and Bryonia are potent in treating inflammation and swellings. Surgical interventions and fluid aspiration may be required in progressively deteriorating conditions.