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- Forced twisting of the arm
- Falling on an outstretched arm
- A blow to the elbow
- Playing certain sports, such as gymnastics or baseball
- Poor coordination
- Poor balance
- Inadequate flexibility and strength in muscles and ligaments
- Loose joints or connective tissue disorders
- Pain, tenderness, and swelling around the elbow
- Redness, warmth, or bruising around the elbow
- Limited ability to move the elbow
- Pain when moving the elbow
- Grade 1—Some stretching with micro-tearing of ligament tissue.
- Grade 2—Partial tearing of ligament tissue.
- Grade 3—Complete tearing of ligament tissue.
- Over-the-counter medication, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen
- Topical pain medication—creams or patches that are applied to the skin
- Prescription pain relievers
- Brace or sling—You may need to wear a brace or sling to immobilize your elbow. Do not return to activities or sports until your doctor gives you permission to do so.
- Rehabilitation exercises—Begin exercises to restore flexibility, range of motion, and strength in your elbow as recommended by your doctor or physical therapist.
- Surgery—Surgery is rarely needed to repair a mild elbow sprain without instability or dysfunction.
- Wearing protective equipment and using proper technique while playing sports
- Keep elbows and arms strong with regular exercises to absorb the energy of sudden physical stress
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://www.aaos.org
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine http://www.sportsmed.org
Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://www.coa-aco.org
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation http://www.canorth.org
Elbow pain—differential diagnosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Accessed September 17, 2013.
Fast facts about sprains and strains. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/health%5Finfo/Sprains%5FStrains/sprains%5Fand%5Fstrains%5Fff.asp . Updated June 2009. Accessed September 17, 2013.
Sprains and strains: What's the difference? American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00111 . Updated October 2007. Accessed September 17, 2013.
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.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 09/2013
- Update Date: 09/30/2013