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.
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Elbow sprains may be caused by:
Factors that may increase your risk of an elbow sprain include:
Elbow sprain may cause:
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:
Acute care may involve:
Medication may be advised to manage pain:
Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving your child aspirin.
Extra support may be needed to help protect, support, and keep your elbow in line while it heals. Supportive steps may include:
Elbow sprains may not always be preventable. There are steps you can take to reduce your chance of getting an elbow sprain. These include:
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Derry S, Moore RA, Gaskell H, McIntyre M, Wiffen PJ. Topical NSAIDs for acute musculoskeletal pain in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015,(6): CD007402.
Fast facts about sprains and strains. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/Sprains_Strains/sprains_and_strains_ff.asp. Updated November 2014. Accessed June 2, 2016.
Sprains and strains: What's the difference? Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00111. Updated July 2015. Accessed June 2, 2016.
Sprains, strains and other soft-tissue injuries. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.orthoinfo.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00111. Updated July 2015. Accessed June 2, 2016.
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.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT, GCS