Elbow fractures, also frequently known as olecranon fractures, is a break in the pointy part of the elbow. However, an elbow fracture may also occur to the radial head or neck or the distal end of the humerus.
Depending on where the fracture is located, different activities or situations may cause them. Frequently, it involves a force or fall of some sort. The humerus, radius, and ulna make up the elbow joint. A fracture to the radial head or neck is noticeable when rotating the forearm. Because of the amount of tiny pieces associated with this fracture, surgery is often necessary.
An olecranon fracture occurs at the pointy part of the elbow. Again, surgery is frequently required. If a break happens at the distal end of the humerus, surgery is also necessary but only if the fracture isn’t stable. This type of fracture is more common in the eldery and children.
The Signs and Symptoms
You may have an elbow fracture if you have sudden and intense pain after impact or after a fall. Swelling, tenderness, and stiffness are also signs of a fracture. Sometimes, a pop or snapping sound is heard at the time of the fracture. Numbness, tingling, or weakness may also be present in the arm, wrist, or hand. This may indicate that nerves are damaged or compressed due to the break.
Treatment for an Elbow Fracture
Your doctor will perform an x-ray to diagnose your elbow fracture and determine where the break has occurred. This will also rule out other injuries, like a dislocation. They may further check your hand, wrist, and arm for neural issues or blood flow problems that could stem from a fractured elbow.
If surgery isn’t required, the affected arm is kept in a sling until healing has taken place. A cast or splint may also be required.
Further treatment, in this regard, may include exercises, massage, heat, and ice.
For more serious fractures, surgery is often performed – especially where multiple breaks are present or smaller pieces have broken off. Screws, wires, and plates may be necessary to help stabilize and hold the bones together. If this is not done in more severe elbow fracture cases, improper healing may occur which could lead to long-term problems, including the inability to fully extend the elbow.
After healing has occurred, you’ll be advised to slowly ease back into your regular activities. You’ll also be instructed on effective rehabilitation exercises to regain strength and range of motion.
Unfortunately, recovery of an elbow fracture is long in many cases. For some, it can take up to 6 months to fully recover.