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- Forced twisting of the arm
- Falling on an outstretched arm
- A blow to the elbow
- Playing certain sports, such as gymnastics
- Poor coordination
- Poor balance
- Inadequate flexibility and strength in muscles and ligaments
- Loose joints
- Pain, tenderness, and swelling around the elbow
- Redness, warmth, or bruising around the elbow
- Limited ability to move the elbow
- Pain when moving the elbow
- X-rays —a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body, especially the bones. You may have an x-ray to make sure that no bones are broken.
- MRI scan —a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the body. You might have a scan to see if a ligament has torn completely (but rarely needed).
- Stretching and some microtearing of ligament tissue
- Partial tearing of ligament tissue
- Mild instability of the joint
- Severe or complete tearing of ligament tissue
- Significant instability of the joint
- Rest—Avoid using your injured arm.
- Ice—Apply ice or a cold pack to the elbow for 15-20 minutes, four times a day for several days. This helps reduce pain and swelling. Wrap the ice or cold pack in a towel. Do not apply the ice directly to your skin.
- Compression—Wrap your elbow in an elastic compression bandage (such as, an Ace bandage). This will limit swelling and support your elbow. Be careful not to wrap your elbow too tightly, which could compromise the circulation.
- Oral pain medicine (such as, ibuprofen , naproxen , acetaminophen , aspirin ) and topical pain medicines (such as, creams, patches) that are applied to the skin
- Sling—You may need to wear a sling to immobilize your arm and elbow.
- Cast—If you have a severe sprain, your doctor may recommend a cast or splint for 2-3 weeks.
- Rehabilitation exercises—Begin exercises to restore the range of motion and strength in your elbow as recommended by your healthcare professional.
- Surgery—Surgery is not needed to repair an elbow sprain. However, in rare cases, surgery may be needed to repair a ligament that is torn completely.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://www.aaos.org
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine http://www.sportsmed.org
Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://www.coa-aco.org
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation http://www.canorth.org
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.aaos.org .
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov .
Sports Injuries: Basic Principles of Prevention and Care . Blackwell Scientific Publications; 1993.
10/26/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Massey T, Derry S, et al. Topical NSAIDs for acute pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(6):CD007402.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 09/2012 -
- Update Date: 09/30/2012 -