An elbow fracture is a break in one or more of the bones that make up the elbow joint. The bones in the elbow joint are:
The Elbow Joint
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Elbow fractures are caused by trauma to the elbow bones. Trauma can be caused by:
This condition is more common in older adults.
Factors that may increase your risk of getting an elbow fracture include:
Elbow fracture may cause:
You will be asked about your symptoms, physical activity, and how the injury occurred. The area will be examined.
Imaging tests may include:
Proper treatment can prevent long-term complications or problems with your elbow. Treatment will depend on how serious the fracture is, but may include:
A cast, splint, or sling may needed to protect, support, and keep your elbow in line while it heals.
Some fractures cause pieces of bone to separate. These pieces will need to be put back into their proper place. This may be done:
Children’s bones are still growing at an area of the bone called the growth plate. If the fracture affected the growth plate, your child may need to see a specialist. Injuries to the growth plate will need to be monitored to make sure the bone can continue to grow as expected.
Prescription or over-the-counter medications may be given to help reduce inflammation and pain.
Medications may include acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Check with your doctor before taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen or aspirin.
Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving your child aspirin.
Healing time varies by age and your overall health. Children and people in better overall health heal faster. In general, it takes up to 8-10 weeks for a fractured elbow to heal.
You will need to adjust your activities while your elbow heals, but complete rest is rarely required. Ice and elevating your arm at rest may also be advised to help with discomfort and swelling.
As you recover, you may be referred to physical therapy or rehabilitation to start range-of-motion and strengthening exercises. Do not return to activities or sports until your doctor gives you permission to do so.
To help reduce your chance of getting an elbow fracture, take these steps:
To help reduce falling hazards at work and home, take these steps:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Distal radius fracture. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 15, 2014. Accessed September 23, 2014.
Elbow fractures in children. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00037. Updated November 2011. Accessed September 23, 2014.
Elbow (olecranon) fractures. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00503. Updated October 2007. Accessed September 23, 2014.
What are ways to prevent falls and related fractures? National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Osteoporosis/Fracture/prevent_falls_ff.asp. Updated January 2011. Accessed September 23, 2014.
Last reviewed August 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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