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Elbow sprain - Orthopaedics SA

Elbow Sprain

Elbow sprains are common injuries that occur from over-stretching or tearing of the ligaments that support the elbow joint.

Elbow sprains can occur at any age and although commonly seen following a sports injury, elbow sprains can occur to non-athletes as well.

Symptoms of an elbow sprain include pain, swelling, bruising, and impaired mobility.

The elbow joint is supported and protected by ligaments that stretch to accommodate normal range of motion. When the elbow is twisted or turned beyond its normal range of motion, the ligament is also stretched beyond its normal capacity causing a sprain. If the sprain is severe enough, tearing of the ligament fibers can occur.

Your doctor will evaluate your condition by physical examination and medical history. Diagnostic tests such as X-ray and MRI scan may be required to confirm the condition and provide treatment.


Immediately following an injury and before being evaluated by a medical doctor, you should initiate the R.I.C.E. method of treatment

  • Rest:  Rest the elbow as more damage could result from putting pressure on the injury.
  • Ice:  Ice packs applied to the injury will help diminish swelling and pain.  Ice should be applied over a towel to the affected area for 15-20 minutes four times a day for several days.  Never place ice directly over the skin.
  • Compression:  Wrapping the elbow with an elastic bandage or compression stocking can help to minimize the swelling and support your elbow.
  • Elevation:  Elevating the affected arm above heart level will also help with swelling and pain.

Your doctor may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce your pain and inflammation. A rehabilitation program is recommended for people injured during sports, which help to regain strength and encourage a fast recovery. A rehabilitation program includes massages and various strengthening, stability and stretching exercises, which should be carried out on a regular basis.


If your pain persists over a long time, then surgery may be needed to repair the torn ligaments. Elbow arthroscopy (minimally-invasive, key-hole surgery) is a surgical procedure done to assess your elbow joint. Repair of your torn ligament may be indicated if you have persistent instability or pain.

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