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Elbow Fractures



What is an elbow fracture?



An elbow (Olecranon) fracture is a break in a bone. Your elbow is made out of 3 bones: the humerus is the large bone that joins from your shoulder to your elbow. The radius is slender bone that attaches from the wrist behind your thumb to the elbow whilst the Ulna runs parallel underneath it. Any of these bones can be fractured in various places with ranges in severity from tiny cracks to complete breaks.

What causes an elbow fracture?



Fractures can be caused by any high impact or excessive forces to the bone, particularly in directions of stress the bone in not used to. Some of these forces include:

Direct impact – car crash, landing awkwardly from a fall, catching something heavy
Repetitive force – pushing repeatedly, causing excessive, overuse, physical stresses.
Indirect impact – referred shockwave from impact to wrist, hand or shoulder.

It can also occur more suddenly if you have a direct force to the elbow – eg. From a fall onto a hard surface.





What are the symptoms of olecranon bursitis?



If you have an elbow (olecranon) fracture you may experience some of the following symptoms:
  • Intense elbow Pain immediately following a sudden impact, and subsequently on touching the elbow.
  • Pain on flexion and extension of the elbow joint.
  • Pain on pronation and supination (rotation) of forearm with 90 degree flexed elbow.
  • Deformity in the normal shape of the elbow and the structures surrounding it.
  • Swelling of the elbow or in the soft tissues above or below it, giving a tight sensation.
  • A grinding or catching sensation, sometimes limiting full range of movement when flexing the elbow or rotating the wrist.
  • Numbness, coldness or reduced sensation in the elbow or forearm.
  • Bruising, discolouration or redness of the elbow and surrounding soft tissues.
  • Occasionally the pain can recede quickly, leaving a persistent ache that is worse at night, in the morning or after prolonged activity.

You may also experience increased pain in your elbow, which can refer throughout the arm and shoulder, if you exert a force on it by lifting or pushing against resistance. Due to the positioning of the triceps muscle attachments around the elbow, trying to flex or straighten the elbow joint unloaded my still cause pain. Due to major nerves passing over the elbow structure, damage and swelling to the joint can cause impingement that manifests as tingling, numbness or a pins and needles sensation. With more severe fractures of the elbow, particularly where bone pieces break free, a visual deformity in the elbow structure may be obvious.

Your symptoms are likely to increase with activity.

How is an elbow fracture Diagnosed?



If you suspect you have an elbow fracture you must seek medical attention from your local doctor or hospital. They will perform an assessment including physical tests to detect which part of the elbow is affected. An X-ray will typically be performed to confirm location and severity of suspected fracture.

If there is displacement of the bone in the elbow fracture the doctor will realign it first and if necessary stabilize it surgically with internal wiring, all under appropriate anaesthetic. Physiotherapy will for an important part of the client's recovery and rehabilitation following diagnosis and any surgical intervention.

For more information on how physiotherapy can help treat elbow fracture, or to book an assessment, please email office@liverpoolphysio.co.uk or call 0151 558 0077.

What would a physiotherapy assessment for an elbow fracture involve?



At Liverpool Physio, we want to gain as much information as possible about your injury to ensure we give you the best treatment. In your first appointment with us, our physiotherapists will carry out an assessment which has two parts:

Subjective



A discussion between you and our physiotherapist to find out the cause of your injury and what symptoms you are experiencing, and how your injury is affecting you and your lifestyle.

Objective



An assessment of your range of pain, range of movement, and a series of special tests to identify the presence of any fracture.

If you have an elbow fracture you may require surgery to help set and repair the bone. In this case, our physiotherapists would be happy to see you for assessment and treatment after your surgery to help you recover.

What would physiotherapy treatment for an elbow fracture involve?



Your physiotherapist at Liverpool Physio will initially assess the affected elbow considering pain, swelling and bruising. Your physiotherapist will then look at your range of movement and muscle strength. Physiotherapy will help speed up your recovery by reducing pain and improving physical function. Physiotherapy treatment at Liverpool Physio may include:
  • Passive and active movement to restore muscle bulk, length and strength surrounding the fracture site. As the fracture heals your physiotherapist will progress to movements with resistance and end-range stretching
  • Structured exercise program to restore muscle length and balance and enhance functional ability.
  • Joint mobilisation to improve and restore range of movement of the affected elbow once the fracture has healed.
  • Soft tissue massage to reduce pain, restore muscle length and release trigger points that occur within muscles following splinting or casting
  • Heat and Electrotherapy to relieve stiffness within soft tissues following prolonged immobilisation.
  • Functional education to enable return to normal daily activities or even sports rehabilitation whilst promoting optimal healing and safety.
  • Advice on the any other equipment or adaptations and on activity modification whilst healing and rehabilitation take place.


Physiotherapy will enhance your recovery and ensure you continue to make significant improvement in range of movement, muscle strength and everyday function. Your physiotherapist at Liverpool Physio will also ensure that you return back to your normal activities with confidence and success.

How can I arrange a physiotherapy assessment for an elbow fracture?



If you are experiencing sharp pain or swelling in your elbow and feel unable to use your arm normally, one of our experienced physiotherapists will be happy to see you for an assessment.

You can contact us directly to arrange an assessment and we can advise you if further treatment is recommended, or give you details on self-management for minor cases. To arrange an appointment please email office@liverpoolphysio.co.uk or call 0151 558 0077.

Summary



An elbow fracture can be extremely painful and greatly inhibit you capacity to perform everyday activities or engage in sports. With our specialist musculoskeletal physiotherapists performing detailed assessments, they can deliver personalised, targeted treatments that can significantly improve your recovery.

At Liverpool Physio we want to ensure you get the best treatment for your injury and we will use pain relieving therapies, strengthening and mobility exercises, along with functional rehabilitation to get you back to the best possible condition.

For more information on how physiotherapy can help treat elbow fracture, or to book an assessment, please email office@liverpoolphysio.co.uk or call 0151 558 0077.

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