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Anconeus muscle - want to learn more about it?

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Anconeus muscle

The anconeus is a small muscle located at the elbow. Attaching to the humerus and ulna, this muscle permits extension of the forearm and provides support for both the dorsal joint capsule and the ulna itself. The hero that allows the anconeus muscle to perform all of those functions by contracting is the radial nerve.

This article covers the anatomy of the anconeus muscle, a small triangular shaped muscle, located along the posterior aspect of the distal arm. Below features notes on its origins and insertions, function, and innervation. 

Key facts about the anconeus muscle
Origins

Lateral epicondyle of humerus

Insertions Olecranon of ulna
Innervation Radial nerve
Blood supply Posterior interosseous recurrent artery
Actions Extension of the forearm; protection and stabilization of the dorsal joint capsule of the elbow joint and ulna
Anatomical variation Anconeus epitrochlearis (originates from the medial epicondyle of the humerus)

Anatomy

Origins & Insertions

The anconeus muscle is a small, triangular muscle located at the elbow. It originates at the dorsal side of the lateral epicondyle of the humerus and inserts at the olecranon of the ulna. The fibers of the origin tendon are further attached to the dorsal joint capsule. The muscle lies superficially and can be easily palpated at the dorsal, lateral side of the forearm near the elbow.

Innervation

The anconeus is supplied by a motor branch of the radial nerve (C6-C8), which arises at the radial sulcus of the humerus, continues through the medial head of the triceps and finally reaches the muscle distally. Both morphologically and functionally the anconeus constitutes a continuation of the triceps. Not only are they innervated by the same nerve, but also both muscles are very often either partly or completely blended together.

Function

Recommended video: Anconeus muscle
Origin, insertion and innervation of the anconeus muscle.

Functionally the anconeus fulfills the same tasks at the elbow as the triceps muscle. Its contraction leads to the extension of the forearm. Furthermore, it keeps the tension of the dorsal joint capsule, thus preventing damages during hyperextension. It is believed that the anconeus has the additional function of stabilizing the ulna, especially during pronation movements of the forearm.

Clinical Aspects

An anatomical variation of the anconeus is found in up to one third of all humans. Even though most are harmless, there is one variation which can be considered clinically relevant, namely the anconeus epitrochlearis muscle.

This muscle originates – contrary to the “normal” variation - at the medial epicondyle of the humerus, thus crossing the ulnar groove of the humerus bone where the ulnar nerve lies. In cases of hypertrophy (e.g. in weightlifters) the anconeus epitrochlearis can therefore compress the nerve leading to numbness at the ulnar border of the hand, the little and ring fingers, as well as elbow and forearm pain (cubital tunnel syndrome).

Anconeus muscle - want to learn more about it?

Our engaging videos, interactive quizzes, in-depth articles and HD atlas are here to get you top results faster.

Sign up for your free Kenhub account today and join over 852,397 successful anatomy students.

“I would honestly say that Kenhub cut my study time in half.” – Read more. Kim Bengochea Kim Bengochea, Regis University, Denver

Show references

References:

  • M. Schünke/E. Schulte/U. Schumacher: Prometheus – LernAtlas der Anatomie – Allgemeine Anatomie und Bewegungssystem, 2.Auflage, Thieme Verlag (2007), S.306-307
  • J. E. Muscolino: The muscular system manual – The skeletal muscles of the human body, 2.Auflage, Elsevier Mosby (2005), S.601-602
  • J. R. Doyle/M. J. Botte: Surgical anatomy of the hand and upper extremity, Lippincott Williams and Wilkins (2003), S.106
  • I. Joen, P. Kim, I. Park et al.: Cubital tunnel syndrome due to the anconeus epitrochlearis in an amateur weight lifter, Sicot Case-Reports (July 2002), Department of Orthopaedic Surgery – Kyungpook National University Taegu, Korea (http://www.sicot.org/resources/File/IO_reports/07-2002/1-07-2002.pdf)
  • H. Assmus, G. Antoniadis, C. Bischoff et. al.: Leitlinie - Diagnostik und Therapie des Kubitaltunnelsyndroms (KUTS), Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Wissenschaftlichen Medizinischen Fachgesellschaften (http://www.awmf.org/uploads/tx_szleitlinien/005-009l.pdf)

Author:

  • Achudhan Karunaharamoorthy

Illustrators:

  • Anconeus muscle - dorsal view - Yousun Koh
  • Radial nerve - ventral view -  Yousun Koh
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