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Elbow Sprain

Definition

An elbow sprain is stretching or tearing of the ligaments that stabilize the elbow. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that cross joints and connect bones to each other.
The Elbow
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Causes

Elbow sprains may be caused by:

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your risk of an elbow sprain include:

Symptoms

Elbow sprain may cause:

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and how you injured your elbow. Your elbow will be examined to assess the stability of the joint and the severity of the injury.
Imaging tests may include:
Elbow sprains are graded according to their severity:

Treatment

Treatment includes:

Acute Care

Acute care may involve:
  • Resting the elbow
  • Avoiding activities that cause pain or put stress on the elbow
  • Icing the elbow to reduce swelling and discomfort
  • Using over-the-counter, topical, or prescription pain relievers
Pain Relief Medications
To manage pain, your doctor may advise:
  • Over-the-counter medication, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen
  • Topical pain medication—creams or patches that are applied to the skin
  • Prescription pain relievers
Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving your child aspirin.

Recovery

Extra support may be needed to help protect, support, and keep your elbow in line while it heals. Supportive steps may include:

Prevention

Elbow sprains may not always be preventable. There are steps you can take to reduce your chance of getting an elbow sprain. These include:

RESOURCES

American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine http://www.sportsmed.org

OrthoInfo—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://www.coa-aco.org

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation http://www.canorth.org

References

Fast facts about sprains and strains. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/health%5Finfo/Sprains%5FStrains/sprains%5Fand%5Fstrains%5Fff.asp. Updated November 2014. Accessed June 18, 2015.

Sprains and strains: What's the difference? American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00111. Updated October 2007. Accessed June 18, 2015.

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.

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