Elbow Fractures: How They Occur & How to Prevent Them

Elbow fractures occur when breaks form in any of the bones that make up the elbow joint. These fractures can result from low-energy and high-energy injuries and range in severity. A board-certified plastic hand surgeon can diagnose and treat elbow fractures so that patients can return to their normal lives with less pain and greater mobility.

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What Causes Elbow Fractures?

Many elbow fractures are caused by low-energy injuries such as falling while standing or bumping the elbow into a hard surface. Falls from high places, car accidents and hard collisions while playing sports are examples of high-energy injuries that require more intensive treatment to heal elbow fractures. Osteoporosis and other medical conditions that negatively affect the bones can also lead to elbow fractures developing.


Most elbow fractures result in at least some pain and swelling, but small breaks in the bone may only cause minor discomfort with no other symptoms. It  can result from acute or cumulative trauma or injury. Larger fractures can result in intense pain, instability of the joint and deformity. Dislocation of the elbow can occur as well with certain fractures. Bruising may also be visible around the area of the fracture.


Treatment will depend on the severity and specific location of the elbow fracture. For smaller fractures with mild to moderate pain, minimal bruising and no visible deformities, the RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) treatment method can help the bone breakage heal quickly. Persistent pain, bruising and swelling with sensations of clinking, clunking or catching in the elbow should be evaluated by a doctor.

If medical treatment is required, the doctor will likely take x-rays of the elbow to identify the severity and exact location of the fracture. A splint, brace or cast may be used to stabilize the elbow so that the fracture can heal properly. Surgery may be required to treat fractures that are particularly large or deep.


Most elbow fractures heal without complications and do not cause long-term effects in patients. If soft tissue was damaged in addition to the fracture, pain and instability could persist and require treatment with physical therapy. Some patients report experiencing stiffness and arthritis even after their elbow fractures have healed.


Keeping the elbow bones and surrounding tissues strong and healthy by getting enough calcium can prevent these fractures. A doctor may recommend other preventative measures if the elbow bones are frail and susceptible to breaking. Using night lights and removing tripping hazards around the home can further prevent injuries that result in elbow fractures.

Contact LA Hand Surgeon today to see what treatment would most benefit you and your elbow condition.