Everyone has had a minor elbow injury. You may have bumped your "funny bone" at the back of your elbow, causing shooting numbness and pain. The funny-bone sensation can be intense, but it is not serious and will go away on its own. Maybe your elbow has become sore after activity. Elbow injuries can be minor or serious and may include symptoms such as pain, swelling, numbness, tingling, weakness, or decreased range of motion. Home treatment often can help relieve minor aches and pains.
Injuries are the most common cause of elbow pain. Some people may not recall having had a specific injury, especially if symptoms began gradually or during everyday activities.To better understand elbow injuries, you may want to review the structure and function of the elbow. See a picture of the elbow.
Elbow injuries occur most commonly during:
Most elbow injuries in children occur during activities, such as sports or play, or are the result of accidental falls. The risk for injury is higher in contact sports such as wrestling, football, or soccer, or high-speed sports such as biking, in-line skating, skiing, hockey, snowboarding, or skateboarding. Elbows, forearms, wrists, hands, and fingers are the most affected body areas. Any injury in a child or teen that occurs near a joint may injure the growing end (growth plate) of long bones and needs to be evaluated.
Older adults have a higher risk for injuries and fractures because they lose muscle mass and bone strength (osteoporosis) as they age. They also have more problems with vision and balance, which increase their risk for accidental injury.
An acute injury may be caused by a direct blow, penetrating injury, or fall or by twisting, jerking, jamming, or bending an elbow abnormally. Pain may be sudden and severe. Bruising and swelling may develop soon after the injury. Acute injuries include:
Overuse injuries occur when too much stress is placed on a joint or other tissue, often by overdoing an activity or through repetition of an activity. Overuse injuries include:
An infection of the elbow may cause pain, redness, swelling, warmth, fever, chills, pus, or swollen lymph nodes in the armpit on that side of your body. "Shooter's abscess" is an infection commonly seen in people who inject illegal drugs into the veins of their arms.
Treatment for an elbow injury may include first aid measures; application of a brace, splint, or cast; physical therapy; medicines; and in some cases, surgery. Treatment depends on:
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Most minor injuries will heal on their own, and home treatment is usually all that is needed to relieve your symptoms and promote healing. But if you suspect that you have a more severe injury, use first aid measures while you arrange for an evaluation by your doctor.
If a cast or splint is applied, it is important to keep it dry and to try to move the uninjured part of your arm as normally as possible to help maintain muscle strength and tone. Your doctor will give you instructions on how to care for your cast or splint.
Home treatment may help relieve pain, swelling, and stiffness.
|Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:|
Talk to your child’s doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
|Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:|
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
The following tips may prevent elbow problems or injuries.
Preventing falls will help you to avoid elbow injuries. To prevent falls:
Injuries such as bruises, burns, fractures, cuts, or punctures may be a sign of abuse. Suspect possible abuse when an injury cannot be explained or does not match the explanation, repeated injuries occur, or the explanations for the cause of the injury change. You may be able to prevent further abuse by reporting it and seeking help.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
|Primary Medical Reviewer||William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine|
|Last Revised||February 16, 2011|
Last Revised: February 16, 2011
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