A sprain is an injury to the ligaments around a joint. A ligament is a band of tissue that connects bone to bone. The ligaments in your elbow help connect the bones of your upper and lower arm around your elbow joint. When you sprain your elbow, you have pulled or torn one or more of the ligaments in your elbow joint.
An elbow sprain can occur when your arm is quickly bent or twisted in an unnatural position. It can also happen when the ligaments are overloaded during regular movement. Elbow sprains can happen when:
You may notice:
Tell your doctor if you heard a "pop" when you injured your elbow. This could be a sign that the ligament was torn.
After examining your elbow, your doctor may order an x-ray to see if there are any breaks (fractures) to the bones in your elbow. You may also have an MRI of the elbow. The MRI pictures will show whether tissues around your elbow have been stretched or torn.
If you have an elbow sprain, you may need:
Your health care provider will likely instruct you to follow RICE to help reduce pain and swelling:
You can take ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) to reduce pain and swelling. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) helps with pain, but not swelling. You can buy these pain medicines at the store.
You may need to wear a sling, splint, or cast for about two to three weeks while your elbow heals. Depending on how badly it is sprained, you may need to work with a physical therapist who will show you stretching and strengthening exercises.
Most people recover completely from a simple elbow sprain in about four weeks.
Call your doctor if:
If you have experienced an elbow, wrist or hand injury or are experiencing joint or nerve pain, call 1-855-NH-SPORT to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic sports medicine hand specialists to discuss how we can help you improve your quality of life or enhance your athletic performance.