Elbow Sprain

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The elbow, like all joints in the body, is stabilized by strong bands called ligaments . Ligaments connect bone to bone. The elbow can be sprained in a number of ways:
  • A traumatic twisting of the arm.
  • A fall broken by an outstretched arm.
  • A severe blow to the arm.
Elbow sprains are graded on the degree of injury to the tissues.
  • Grade I: a mild sprain, the ligaments are stretched, but not torn with elbow pain.
  • Grade II: a moderate sprain, some of the ligaments are torn. These sprains may involve some loss of function and elbow pain.
  • Grade III: a severe sprain, there is a complete tear all the way through the ligament. These are significant injuries that require medical or surgical care to ensure recovery. As the ligament tears away from the bone, it may also take a small chip of bone with it, resulting in an avulsion fracture and severe elbow pain.
Symptoms include:
  • Elbow pain, swelling and discoloration around the elbow.
  • Limited range of motion.
Non-surgical treatment

Elbow sprains can be treated with PRICE.
  • P: Protection from further injury with a sling or brace.
  • R: Rest means limiting movement of the injured elbow as much as possible.
  • I: Icing, cold therapy to stimulate blood flow and relieve the elbow pain associated with inflammation. Cold therapy should be applied several times over the course of the day.
  • C: Compression means supporting the elbow with a firmly (not tightly) wrapped elastic bandage, or gel wrap. If swelling causes the bandage to become tight, it should be loosened immediately.
  • E: Elevating the elbow above heart level minimizes bruising and swelling. This should be done as often as possible during the first 48 hours.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen, Motrin, Naprosyn and Celebrex may be used to decrease elbow pain. Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting these medications.

Surgical treatment

Surgery is generally not needed to repair elbow sprains.

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