The bony tip of the elbow is called the olecranon. Its position, just under the skin of the elbow, has little protection because it doesn’t have any muscles or tendons around it to protect it. So a direct blow to the olecranon or a fall on an outstretched arm is often the cause of an elbow fracture. Because of the shape and position of the elbow bone, the type of fracture can either consist of a number of pieces or may just be a crack. In any case, an elbow fracture is a very painful injury and makes arm movement difficult, if not impossible.
What causes an Elbow Fracture?
Elbow breaks are typically a result of one of the following:
- A fall on an outstretched arm
- A direct fall on the elbow
- A direct blow to the elbow from something hard
How do you know you have an Elbow Fracture?
Depending on the break, symptoms of a broken elbow can include:
- Immediate and severe pain
- Pain with movement or forearm rotation
- Tenderness to the touch
- Finger numbness
- Instability; feeling like the elbow is going to “pop out”
How does OSI fix an Elbow Fracture?
A board-certified OSI orthopedic specialist will examine you for signs and symptoms of an elbow fracture. The following are used to determine the extent of the injury and the best course of care:
- Physical exam: Your OSI doctor will perform a careful and thorough examination of your elbow, checking to see if you can move your wrist and fingers as well as determine if there are other areas of tenderness that might indicate further injury, such as an elbow dislocation.
- X-rays: X-rays help your OSI doctor diagnose the elbow break and identify its extent. Additional X-rays may be needed to check your upper arm, forearm, shoulder, wrist, or hand.
Depending on the injury, your orthopedic surgeon may not even recommend surgery. If pieces of the bone are still in place, your doctor may use a splint/cast to hold the elbow in place. With this treatment, the following are typical:
- The splint/cast is worn for six weeks
- A sling will accompany a splint to assist in keeping the elbow in position
- Multiple X-rays are taken to ensure proper alignment
- Medications to relieve pain
- Physical therapy
Some elbow fractures may require surgery to realign and stabilize the break. Depending on the severity of the elbow break, your OSI orthopedic surgeon might need to use pins, plates, or screws to maintain the proper position of your bones during healing. A splint or cast will be worn to protect the fracture following surgery. Your OSI specialists will also provide you with specific exercises to decrease any stiffness that might develop. Physical therapy will probably also be recommended, which you can do right at OSI.
Whether your injury is treated surgically or conservatively, your efforts during the rehabilitation phase will contribute significantly to a full recovery.