Elbow sprains are usually caused by a direct blow or an unnatural movement that twists the elbow sideways or backwards. A sprain occurs when the ligaments are stretched and partly torn. A ruptured ligament can cause instability in the affected area. Stress on this joint can affect the surrounding ligaments and muscles and cause tissue damage.
There may be an immediate shooting pain down your forearm. This instant sharp jolt to the elbow quickly resolves and does not reoccur. A tingling feeling may be felt in the forearm if a nerve has been injured giving both arm and elbow pain. Discoloration may also occur along with swelling. With a mild sprain the elbow will become tender and stiffen. A severe elbow sprain will cause heightened pain and limit ability to move the elbow.
There are a number of non-invasive elbow sprain treatments including rest, ice, pain-relieving medications as well as bandage support. Avoid hot showers or heat penetrating creams as these will delay the healing process.
Your doctor will use a brace or sling to protect and immobilize the sprained elbow to promote a speedy healing process. To limit permanent stiffness, consult your physical therapist to develop an exercise program. Treatment should begin as soon as possible to begin restoring flexibility range of motion and strength in the elbow.
Stretching and strengthening of the elbow muscles is an important way to recover from injuries and prevent them from reoccurring. Your physical therapist can help control inflammation with specific exercises to help improve your elbow range of motion and strength. Restoring full mobility and normal functional use of your arm is the primary goal for an elbow sprain.
EXERCISES FOR ELBOW SPRAIN
Fully flex the arm keeping it supported on the thigh.
Raise the arm above the head and extend the arm at the elbow.
Support the arm on the table with the hand going over the edge palm up and perform one full wrist curl. Repeat slowly and controlled.
Perform this exercise again but this time with the palm down.
Rest the arm on the table and move the wrist from left to right 10 to 15 times.
Use a bar with a weight suspended from it with string. Wind it up and then unwind.
Squeeze a rubber ball.
ELBOW SPRAIN DISORDERS
Biceps Tendonitis With repetitive use, the biceps tendon can become inflamed and painful during use.
Olecranon Bursitis The bursa is a slippery sac between the skin and the bones at the tip of the elbow. The bursa allows the skin to move freely over the underlying bone. If it becomes irritated or inflamed due to repetitive movement, a condition known as olecranon bursitis develops.
Golfer’s Elbow Golfer’s elbow results when the muscles that flex the wrist are overused. This overuse results in swelling or inflammation of the muscle tendons.
Tennis Elbow Tennis elbow results when the muscles that extend the wrist are overused. This overuse results in swelling or inflammation of the muscle tendons. This inflammation causes pain and discomfort in the outer aspect of the elbow joint.
Recurrent elbow dislocation is an uncommon condition. If the pain is ongoing and should mobility become an issue, consult your doctor or physical therapist to expertly assess your elbow injury and to determine the best treatment option.
To prevent recurring elbow sprains, routinely exercise your elbow with strengthening and stretching exercises to help reduce injury from sudden movement in the future. Nearly all elbow sprains are resolved with simple, nonsurgical treatments.