Hyperextended elbow occurs if the joint is flexed beyond its normal range of motion. With this form of injury, the elbow ligaments and bones are damaged. In some cases, the joint might dislocate.
It can occur to any individual but likely among those who engage in contact sports such as boxing, football or judo. Other sports such as tennis, gymnastics and weight lifting can also put one at risk.
What are the indications?
In most cases, there is a popping sound and immediate elbow pain. Other accompanying signs might include:
- Dull to sharp pain during elbow movement
- Swelling around the affected joint
- Pain when touching the joint
- Stiffness or rigidity in the arm and elbow
- Loss of strength
- Muscle spasms in the biceps when attempting to straighten the arm
The skin might turn red and blotchy around the site of injury. Depending on the seriousness of the injury, there is also deformity, circulation issues with the hand or both.
Management of a hyperextended elbow
Right after the injury, apply a cold compress on the joint to lessen the swelling and pain. An over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain medication can be taken to relieve the discomfort and swelling.
Depending on the seriousness of the injury, the doctor might suggest one or several of the following measures:
- Adequate rest – during the initial days after the injury, the individual should avoid bending or extending the elbow to allow it to recuperate. Avoid engaging in activities that can worsen the swelling. Depending on the seriousness of the injury, the doctor might suggest moving the joint after a few days or recommend a longer resting period.
- Cold therapy – apply an ice pack on the site of injury at 10-20 minutes at a time. Do this every few hours during the initial few days after the injury.
- Elastic bandage – wrap a bandage around the affected joint to prevent and lessen the swelling. This also limits movement to allow healing. Wrap the bandage around the joint in a firm manner for compression but not too tight that it triggers pain or diminishes the sensation in the hand or arm.
- Elbow brace – use a brace to immobilize the joint to allow proper healing.
- Elevation – raising the joint above the level of the heart can prevent and lessen the swelling. This is beneficial during the initial days after the injury. Prop the elbow on some cushions or pillows when lying down or sitting.
- Physical therapy – if elbow movement is possible without any discomfort, the doctor suggests gentle exercises or stretching since this promotes healing
- Surgery – in some instances, where there is damage, the doctor performs surgery to repair the area.
Quick Note / Disclaimer
The material posted on this page on a hyperextended elbow is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn more about the causes and how it is treated, register for a first aid and CPR course with Vancouver First Aid.