An elbow sprain is stretching or tearing of the ligaments of the elbow. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that hold bones to each other.
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An elbow sprain is when a force pushes the bones of the elbow apart. If the force is strong enough, the ligament comes apart. This can happen from things like:
Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:
Problems may be:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked how you injured your elbow. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on your elbow.
Treatment will depend on the joint and how severe the injury is. The goal of treatment is to ease pain and improve movement. Choices are:
Some people may need surgery to repair a ligament that is torn.
Most sprains are due to accidents. They cannot always be prevented. The risk may be lowered by:
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Derry S, Moore RA, et al. Topical NSAIDs for acute musculoskeletal pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev.2015;(6):CD007402.
Sprains and strains. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/sprains-and-strains. Accessed October 14, 2020.
Sprains, strains and other soft-tissue injuries. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
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Accessed October 14, 2020.
Topical NSAIDs. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/drug-review/topical-nsaids. Accessed October 12, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT
Last Updated: 6/4/2021