Elbow hyperextension occurs if the joint is flexed beyond its normal range. The injury can damage the elbow ligaments and bones. In some cases, it can even cause a dislocation.
This can occur to individuals of all ages but prevalent among those who engage in contact sports such as boxing, judo or football.
What are the indications?
Generally, there is a popping sound heard along with pain once elbow hyperextension occurs.
Other possible signs include:
- Elbow pain or discomfort when the joint is touched
- Sharp to dull pain when the elbow is moved
- Swelling around the joint
- Loss of strength
- Stiffness or rigidity of the elbow and arm
- Muscle spasms in the biceps when attempting to straighten the arm
In most cases, the skin might turn reddened and blotchy around the damaged area. Depending on the seriousness of the damage, there is also circulation issues in the hand, elbow deformity or both.
Management of elbow hyperextension
Right after the injury, apply a cold compress on the injured elbow to help in reducing the swelling and pain.
An over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin can also ease the discomfort and swelling.
Depending on the seriousness of the injury, the doctor might suggest the following treatments:
- Rest – during the initial days after the injury, avoid bending and extending the elbow as much as possible to allow it to heal.
- Cold therapy – an ice pack can be applied on the damaged area for 10-20 minutes. This must be done during the initial few days after the injury.
- Elastic bandage – an elastic bandage is wrapped around the injured elbow to relieve the swelling. It also helps limit movement as the injury heals.
- Elbow brace – a brace can help in immobilizing the joint to promote healing. The doctor will suggest the length of time it should be worn. In some cases, the doctor will encourage the individual to use one when engaging in certain activities.
- Elevation – raising the elbow above the level of the heart can lessen the swelling. This is beneficial during the initial days after the injury.
- Physical therapy – once the individual can move the elbow without any pain, the doctor will suggest gentle stretches or exercises to promote further healing.
- Surgery – in some cases, surgery is required to repair the damaged area. After surgery, the arm should be immobilized for a few weeks. This is followed by physical therapy to restore the functionality of the joint.