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Elbow Sprain: Teen Version

What is an elbow sprain?

An elbow sprain is an injury to one or more of the ligaments in your elbow. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect one bone to another to form the joints. When a ligament is injured, it can be stretched, partially torn, or completely torn.

What is the cause?

A sprain is caused by a sudden activity that twists or tears a ligament, like a fall onto your elbow or onto your outstretched arm.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Trouble bending and straightening your elbow

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms, activities, and medical history. You may have X-rays or other scans.

How is it treated?

You will need to change or stop doing the activities that cause pain until the ligament has healed.

Your healthcare provider may recommend stretching and strengthening exercises to help you heal.

Your provider may give you a sling or splint to keep the elbow from moving while it heals.

If your elbow ligaments are completely torn, you may need surgery.

The pain often gets better within a few weeks with self-care, but some injuries may take several months or longer to heal. It’s important to follow all of your healthcare provider’s instructions.

How can I take care of myself?

To reduce swelling and pain for the first few days after the injury:

  • Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth on the injured area every 3 to 4 hours for up to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Keep your elbow up on a pillow when you sit or lie down.
  • Take pain medicine, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or other medicine as directed by your provider. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days.

Follow your healthcare provider's instructions, including any exercises recommended by your provider. Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • What activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

How can I help prevent an elbow sprain?

Warm-up exercises and stretching before activities can help prevent injuries.

Follow safety rules and use any protective equipment recommended for your work or sport.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-11-20
Last reviewed: 2012-08-17
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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