Scapholunate interosseous ligament dysfunction as a source of elbow pain syndromes: Possible mechanisms and implications for hand surgeons and therapists

Med Hypotheses. 2018 Jan:110:125-131. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2017.12.009. Epub 2017 Dec 5.


Elbow pain syndromes are common upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders, and they are usually associated with repetitive occupational exposure. Ligaments are often one of the sources of musculoskeletal disorders because of their mechanical and neurological properties. The wrist ligaments are some of the ligaments most vulnerable to occupational exposure. Since most occupational tasks require wrist extension for handling tools and loading, the scapholunate interosseous ligament (SLIL) bears greater strain during loading, which results in creep deformation and hysteresis. Ligamentous creep may result in diminished ability to detect signal changes during joint movements, which impairs neuromuscular control established by ligamentomuscular reflex arcs elicited from mechanoreceptors in the ligaments. Changes in muscle activation patterns of forearm muscles due to diminished ligamentomuscular reflexes may initiate a positive feedback loop, leading to musculoskeletal pain syndromes. The relationship between elbow pain syndromes and SLIL injury will be presented through two hypotheses and relevant pain mechanisms: 1. Repetitive tasks may cause creep deformation of the SLIL, which then impairs ligamentomuscular reflexes, leading to elbow pain disorders. 2. Lateral epicondylalgia may increase the risk of SLIL injury through the compensation of the lower extensor carpi radialis muscle activity by higher extensor carpi ulnaris muscle activity, which may alter carpal kinematics, leading to SLIL degeneration over time. The differential diagnosis is usually complicated in musculoskeletal pain disorders. The failure of treatment methods is one of the issues of concern for many researchers. A key element in developing treatment strategies is to understand the source of the disorder and the nature of the injury. We proposed that the differential diagnosis include SLIL injuries when describing elbow pain syndromes, particularly, lateral epicondylalgia.

Keywords: Elbow; Lateral epicondylalgia; Ligamentomuscular reflexes; Pain; Scapholunate interosseous ligament injury.

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Collateral Ligaments / injuries
  • Collateral Ligaments / physiopathology
  • Elbow / innervation
  • Elbow / pathology
  • Elbow / physiopathology*
  • Forearm / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / physiopathology*
  • Surgeons
  • Syndrome
  • Wrist Joint / physiopathology