Experiencing an elbow fracture may be more complex and frequent than many people would expect. In fact, elbow fractures account for 10% of all childhood fractures. No matter what age or stage of life you happen to be, EmergeOrtho’s Elbow and Arm Specialists are skilled and practiced in providing safe, effective, and evidence-based treatment for elbow fractures. Our ultimate goal is to help all our patients Emerge Stronger. Healthier. Better.
What Are the Main Causes of an Elbow Fracture?
As one of the largest bones in your body, the elbow connects the bones of the forearm (radius and ulna) to the upper arm bone (humerus). They are connected through an extensive network of muscles and ligaments, which provide the elbow with a wide range of motion. However, because it is one of the most stressed joints, it is also prone to fractures and other injuries.
When an elbow fracture occurs, it is typically the result of:
- A fall directly on the elbow or outstretched arm with the elbow tightly held in preparation of an impact.
- A direct blow or trauma to the elbow (sports-related or from a car accident).
Symptoms of an Elbow Fracture
Also referred to as an “olecranon fracture,” an elbow fracture can result in symptoms which include:
- Pain in the elbow
- Swelling over the tip and/or back of the elbow
- Numbness in the fingers
- Pain that worsens with movement (especially when rotating the forearm)
- Elbow joint instability
Broken Elbow Treatment
Treatment varies depending on the type of fracture and severity. A simple elbow fracture can often heal from the use of a splint.
Additional conservative treatment options include:
- Ice to reduce pain and inflammation
- Medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
The problem with many elbow fractures is that pieces of the bone move out of place. If you have a complex intra-articular fracture, surgery is needed to put the pieces of your bone back into position. This may involve placing titanium screws to repair and hold your bones in place.
To determine the best treatment plan, an EmergeOrtho Elbow and Arm doctor will examine your arm, checking for an open fracture (when bone fragments break through the skin). An evaluation of any additional injuries may be checked by palpating the surrounding skin — confirming any possible dislocation or additional fractures.
Your orthopedic physician may also check your pulse to ensure proper blood flow is traveling to your hand and fingers. X-rays will reveal the extent of an elbow fracture and reveal any possible additional fractures in the surrounding upper arm, forearm, shoulder, wrist, or hand, as well as determine if the bone has shifted out of place.
If it is determined that a splint will effectively heal an elbow fracture, recovery may take a few weeks. Movement of the arm and elbow should be delayed for proper healing for up to six weeks.
Whether an elbow fracture is treated with conservative methods or by a surgical procedure, it is important to be patient and follow your physician’s recovery plan. Most people return to their daily routines and activities within four months, but in some cases, full healing may take place closer to a year or more.
During your rehabilitation period, you will likely be instructed to practice a physical therapy program that incorporates specific exercises and stretches to improve strength and increase the flexibility of the muscles surrounding the elbow.
Always be sure to consult with your doctor prior to performing a new exercise, stretch, or activity after experiencing an elbow fracture.
If you suspect you have experienced an elbow fracture, request a visit with an EmergeOrtho Elbow and Arm specialist now.