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Elbow Strain
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Health Tip

Home :: Elbow Strain

Elbow Strain

Injury to the muscles or tendons that attach to bones in the elbow. Muscles, tendons and bones comprise units. These units stabilize the elbow joint and allow its motion. A strain occurs at a unit's weakest part. Strains are of 3 types:

  • Mild (Grade I)-Slightly pulled muscle without tearing of muscle or tendon fibers. There is no loss of strength.
  • Moderate (Grade II)- Tearing of fibers in a muscle, tendon or at the attachment to bone. Strength is diminished.
  • Severe (Grade III)-Rupture of the muscle-tendon-bone attachment with separation of fibers. Severe strain requires surgical repair. Chronic strains are caused by overuse. Acute strains are caused by direct injury or overstress.

BODY PARTS INVOLVED

  • Tendons and muscles around the elbow.
  • Bones in the elbow region.
  • Soft tissue surrounding the strain, including nerves, periosteum (covering to bone), blood vessels and lymph vessels.

Causes

  • Prolonged overuse of muscle-tendon units in the elbow.
  • Sudden, forceful hyperextension of the elbow.
  • Single violent injury or force applied to the elbow.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Pain when moving or stretching the elbow.
  • Muscle spasm in the elbow area.
  • Swelling over the injury.
  • Loss of strength (moderate or severe strain).
  • Crepitation ("crackling") feeling and sound when the injured area is pressed with fingers.
  • Calcification of muscles or tendons (visible with X-rays).
  • Inflammation of a tendon sheath.

Treatment

Follow your doctor's instructions. These instructions are supplemental.

If cast or splints are used:

  • Be sure to keep fingers free and exercise them frequently.

If casts or splints are not used:

  • Use ice massage 3 or 4 times a day for 15 minutes at a time. Fill a large styrofoam cup with water and freeze. Tear a small amount of foam from the top so ice protrudes. Massage firmly over the injured area in a circle about the size of a softball.
  • After the first 24 hours, apply heat instead of ice, if it feels better. Use heat lamps, hot soaks, hot showers, heating pads, or heat liniments and ointments.
  • Take whirlpool treatments, if available.
  • Wrap the injured elbow with an elasticized bandage between treatments.
  • Massage gently and often to provide comfort and decrease swelling.

Home Diet

Eat a well-balanced diet that includes extra protein, such as meat, fish, poultry, cheese, milk and eggs. Increase fiber and fluid intake to prevent constipation that may result from decreased activity.

Prevention
  • Participate in a strengthening and conditioning program appropriate for your sport.
  • Warm up before practice or competition. Include adequate stretching.
  • Tape the elbow area before practice or competition to prevent recurrence of injury.
  • Wear proper protective equipment, such as elbow pads, for participation in contact sports.
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