Coach talking to football player

The elbow is one of the most complex joints in the body because of its many functions. Without it, you couldn't bend or extend your arm, or rotate your palm upward or downward.

Because of the elbow's many uses—and misuses—it can easily become injured due to overuse.

Usually, an elbow injury doesn't require immediate medical attention. In fact, many injuries can be treated simply with rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain medications. But if you are still in pain or if your pain worsens after two days of self-treatment, you should seek medical care immediately.

Although it is rare, elbow injuries can become more serious. If you have any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor immediately:

  • Tingling/numbness in the fingers
  • Loss of motion in the elbow and forearm
  • Cold/clammy skin
  • Weakened pulse
  • Significant loss of grip strength

Common elbow injuries

  • Tennis Elbow
  • Golfer's Elbow
  • Bursitis
  • Tendonitis
  • Tendon rupture
  • Sprains of the muscle, tendon
  • cartilage, bone, and soft tissue
  • Ulna nerve irritation
  • Dislocation
  • Fractures

Comprehensive care

Our experienced elbow surgeons perform thousands of surgeries each year. We pride ourselves on offering the least invasive surgical options to allow our patients to recover quickly from surgery and return to their regular lives faster. Our surgeons take the time to explain your unique condition to you and walk you through your treatment from beginning to end. Our specialists will always encourage non-surgical options when possible and recommend surgical options only when necessary.

What is a traumatic elbow injury?

Also known as an acute elbow injury, this is damage to the elbow caused by sudden impact. This injury is often the result of a collision during contact sports, car accident, or falling on the arm. The most common types include the following:

Broken Elbow

A broken elbow or elbow fracture can occur in one of the three bones that form your elbow joint, the upper arm, and forearm bones.

Elbow Hyperextension

These injuries can occur when the elbow is forcefully bent in the wrong direction, causing the ligaments to tear or another elbow structural problem.

Sprained Elbow

This usually means the medial collateral (MCL) ligament is damaged. This may be due to sudden impact, such as a sports injury.

Dislocated Elbow

It can become dislocated due to a direct blow or accident, causing the joint to move out of alignment.

Ulnar Nerve Compression

The ulnar nerve, a major nerve that runs through the elbow (commonly associated with the “funny bone”), can become compressed due to sudden impact or a fall.

What are the symptoms?

It is important to visit an orthopedic specialist if you are suffering from any of these common symptoms:

  • Sudden, intense pain
  • Bruising or discoloration around the elbow
  • Inflammation around the elbow
  • Loss of range of motion

How is it diagnosed?

At the first signs of elbow trauma, you should speak with a specialist.  MedStar Health is home to experts who have years of experience diagnosing and treating elbow injuries. Your exam will likely include the following:

  • Medical history evaluation: Your physician will discuss your medical history with you and any relevant prior elbow problems.
  • Physical exam: Your doctor will evaluate the affected area and may ask you questions about where you are feeling pain or discomfort.
  • Imaging tests: Your orthopedist will also likely conduct imaging studies to rule out a fracture and accurately diagnose your condition.

What are the best treatment options?

This type of injury often requires surgical intervention. Depending on the type of elbow injury and the severity of the condition, our orthopedic specialists may recommend one of the following treatments: