A Broken Elbow Guide

A broken elbow is one of the most serious of arm injuries. A broken elbow will see the sufferer unable to use the affected arm for a minimum of 6 to 8 weeks, possibly much longer. Within this guide to a fractured elbow, you will learn what a broken elbow is, how it is caused, treated and how you can aid in your own recovery.

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What is a Broken Elbow?

The elbow is one of the most complex joints in the human body. A broken elbow occurs when one of the three elbow bones, the humerus, radius or ulna is broken or fractured, or when the single ligament which keeps it together is torn completely.

Broken Elbow Key Facts

The elbow is a very complex joint, it consists of three bones, the humerus which runs down from your shoulder, and the radius and ulna which run up from your hand. These bones are held together by tough ligaments.

The elbow moves in three ways; bending of the elbow, extension of the elbow and rotation of the elbow.

The major muscle groups of the arm are used to do all the heavy work of the elbow; the triceps at the rear of your arm, and the biceps at the front of your arm. Many smaller muscles enable the precise movement and rotation of the elbow.

Broken elbow injuries are fairly rare, this is a strong joint, and usually one of the three bones will snap further away from the joint, rather than the ligaments of the joint itself. However, looking at the graph below, you can see that as people age, they become more likely to suffer a broken elbow.

Frequency of Elbow Fractures

Frequency of Elbow Fractures

What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Broken Elbow?

A broken elbow is a serious, painful injury. If you break your elbow, you know it. The main broken elbow symptoms are:

  • One of the main symptoms of a fractured elbow is the severe pain of the joint itself and tenderness of the arm above and below the elbow.
  • You may also have a bruised elbow, and this will be a bruised elbow bone, not a bruise above or below the join.
  • Another of the primary fractured elbow symptoms is a difficulty in moving, or complete inability to move the elbow.
  • For severe breaks of the elbow, the arm itself will be misshapen, with the lower arm sticking out at an odd angle.
  • There may be a loud snapping or popping noise when the injury happens.
  • For complex fractures of the elbow, there will be a visible open wound or blood close to the elbow.
  • You may have a strange sensation in your elbow, lower arm, hands or fingers, such as pins and needles or numbness.
  • You may also feel faint, sick, or begin to shiver due to the shock of breaking an elbow.
  • In the case of an elbow hairline fracture, the visible symptoms could be far less apparent.

If you have one or more of the symptoms outlined above, you should seek medical attention.

What Are the Most Common Causes of a Broken Elbow?

There are a few ways that an elbow can be broken, but most commonly it is acute blunt trauma or stress which is the cause. For example, fractured elbow child injuries are generally caused by trauma, such as falling from a bicycle.

In adults, the single most common accident that results in a broken or chipped elbow is a slip, trip or fall. This is due to a person trying to break their fall with their outstretched arm. In older people, this is the single most common cause of a fractured elbow.

Motor vehicle accidents are a source of blunt trauma injuries that can often result in a broken elbow. During a car crash, large forces are often applied to the body, and if the elbow has to take the brunt of these forces, it can fracture.

Hairline fractures of the elbow are caused by stress or overuse. This is usually the result of a sporting injury.

When Should You Seek Medical Care for a Broken Elbow?

If you believe that the answer to the question, have I chipped my elbow? is yes in your case, then you need to seek fractured elbow NHS treatment immediately.

You will need to head to your local Accident & Emergency Department. There are a number of things you can do on the way to the hospital to make the chances of effective treatment for broken elbow being administered higher, such as:

  • You must immobilize the arm with the damaged elbow. You can do this using a sling. If you don’t have a proper sling, you can make one from a bed sheet or a tablecloth. If it is a fractured elbow in child bones, you may want to find a friend to drive you to the hospital, so that you can help your child to remain calm and keep the elbow immobilized.
  • If there is an open, bleeding wound close to the fracture point, you can try to lessen or stop the bleeding by applying gentle pressure to the would using cotton wool or a surgical pad.
  • If it is at all possible (and it may not be) try to keep your elbow raised, to reduce swelling. If you cannot raise it (due to the pain) you can use an ice pack instead. Apply the ice pack gently to the damaged elbow to keep swelling down.
  • It is likely you may need surgery as part of your broken elbow treatment, and for this reason, it is inadvisable to consume any food or drink on your way to the hospital. If you do, it will likely delay the surgery, as you will not be able to go under aesthetic if you have recently eaten or drunk something.

How to Get a Free Expert Orthopaedic Assessment for Your Broken Bone Report

If you have suffered a fractured elbow treatment will always include having a set of x-rays taken (or an MRI scan in the case of hairline fractures). Your doctor will take the results of the x-ray or MRI scan, and use them to write a broken bone report, detailing the nature of the injury, and the treatment they believe should be administered. You are entitled to ask for a copy of this broken bone report.

In many cases, we can help you to claim a free expert orthopaedic assessment of your fractured elbow broken bone report. This free expert opinion will help to highlight any shortcomings in the treatment you are receiving, as well as uncover any additional treatment which could make your recovery from broken elbow faster or better. Call us now, and we can find it almost instantly if a free expert orthopaedic assessment of your fractured elbow broken bone report is available in your area.

How is a Broken Elbow Diagnosed?

A brief examination by a doctor will find out if you have a broken elbow injury such as a fractured elbow radius. Once it has been decided that yes, you do have a broken elbow, one of two courses will be taken to fully diagnose the extent of the injury.

  • In the case of simple, complex or compound fractures, your doctor will call for a set of x-rays to be taken. These special broken elbow pictures will show the doctor how bad the break is, and what needs to be done to realign the bones so that they can begin healing.
  • In the case of hairline fractures, an MRI scan will be done, instead of x-rays, as hairline fractures of an elbow are often not visible on an x-ray.

How is a Broken Elbow Treated?

The treatment given to a patient suffering from a broken elbow depends on the severity of the injury.

For a minor fracture of the elbow:

Broken elbow treatment in adults is slightly different to child broken elbow treatment. For a child, a fractured elbow cast will always be applied, and the entire arm immobilized with a sling. This is because children are far less likely to remember not to move the arm affected by the injury.

For adults, in most cases, the treatment is the same, with a cast and a sling being applied. But in some examples of broken elbow treatment, no cast is applied. However, this is quite rare, and this kind of treatment is only given to people with extremely minor simple or hairline fractures of the elbow.

Treatment of broken elbow injuries concludes with the patient being given a short course of painkillers to get them through the first few days, and instruction on how to care for their injury at home, before being discharged from the hospital.

For more serious fractures of the elbow:

For complex fractures, it will likely be the case that the bones of the elbow need to be realigned before they can begin to knit together and heal correctly. This is done in one of two ways:

  • For less severe fractures, the doctor will use his hands, to bring the elbow bones back into alignment, before they are immobilized by a cast and can begin to heal.
  • For severe fractures, surgery will be needed to align the bones, and surgical pins, rods and screws will be used to keep them in place as they heal. A cast will then be applied. These devices will be removed once the elbow has almost healed.

What Free Private Treatment Can I Qualify For?

When discussing broken elbow recovery time NHS treatment, although sufficient, is designed to be cost-effective. Therefore, ensuring that you heal as rapidly as possible is not a priority for the NHS.

Free private medical care could help you recover faster from your broken elbow, and in some cases, better.

There are numerous free private health care offerings available, depending upon the area that you live. If you give us a quick phone call, we will be able to tell you what is available in the way of free medical care in your area.

Caring for Your Broken Elbow at Home

Unlike other, less serious fractures, the cast for your broken elbow will need to stay on until the joint is almost completely healed, and in some cases, this can be as long as two months. Your broken elbow recovery time can be reduced if you take care of your injury properly whilst you are at home. The tips below will help you do this.

  • The answer to the question can you break your elbow and still move it? Is a definite no. You must keep your elbow immobilized so that it can heal correctly.
  • Do not put any strain at all upon your fractured elbow. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your cast is going to protect your elbow completely. Your elbow can still flex a little inside the cast, and any excessive strain on it could delay the healing.
  • Towards the end of your recovery, ask your doctor about broken elbow therapy exercises. They may be able to advise you about some simple exercises that will prepare your elbow for when the cast comes off. You are going to need elbow fracture physiotherapy exercises once the cast is off to rebuild the strength in the injured arm after being immobile for so long.

Is There Any Other Good Treatment I Can Get for Free?

There may be additional treatment available in your area, to help with your recovery. For example, you may be able to get a free high-quality sling to help you immobilize your arm.

We can let you know if we think there are any additional free treatment options available in your area. Give us a quick phone call, and we will let you know almost straight away.

Follow Up for a Broken Elbow

Expect to visit the hospital or a specialist you have been referred to, several times during your recovery. Initially, these appointments will be to check that the elbow is healing correctly.

As you get closer to the day your cast comes off, the emphasis will shift to preparing you for rehabilitation and a return to a fully active life.

How Long Does a Broken Elbow Take to Heal?

A broken elbow can take 8 weeks or sometimes more for the bones to physically heal. However, this is only part of the recovery timeline. You will need additional therapy to rehabilitate you, as your arm will have become weak due to such a long period going unused or exercised.

Most people make a full recovery from a fractured elbow within 3 months.

How Can I Recover Safer and Possibly Faster?

As part of your recuperation, you will definitely need some fractured elbow physical therapy. We may be able to arrange for you to receive some free private physiotherapy. This will help you recover faster, and possibly even better.

Give us a call now, and we will be able to check, based on your postcode, and find out if you are eligible for some free physio in your area.

What is the Prognosis for a Broken Elbow?

The elbow is a very complex joint. Full recovery from a broken elbow, with no loss of function, is dependant on a number of factors including the age and general healthiness of the patient.

In the majority of cases, a person will heal fully within 8 weeks and have recuperated and regained the use of their arm and elbow within 3 months as long as no complications have set in during the broken elbow healing time.

What are the Possible Complications of a Broken Elbow?

There are a number of complications which could affect people who have suffered a broken elbow, and the most common of these are:

  • Nerve damage – quite frequently, the anterior interosseous, radial and median nerves are damaged when the elbow breaks. This can lead to a longer recuperation time, as these key nerves will also need to heal.
  • Vascular restriction – this happens when the broken bones prevent blood flow along one of the major arteries of the arm. This leads to swelling or even numbness of the arm below the elbow. Surgery may be required to alleviate this complication.

Do You Think Your Doctor Might Have Missed Something About Your Injury?

If you believe you have been given inadequate or incorrect treatment for your broken elbow, then you need to educate yourself, so that you can confirm your suspicions.

The websites below will give far more detailed information about fractured elbow injuries than this short guide:

Arm Pain Explained – NHS

How a Sling Works – NHS

Helping Your Elbow to Recover After a Radial Head Fracture – NHS

Are There Any Long-Term Health Issues Caused by a Broken Elbow?

The single most serious long-term health effect of a broken elbow is in the form of a restricted movement, or even pain when flexing the elbow.

  • People who cannot bend their elbow fully, or to give the correct medical term, have reduced elbow flexion, will not be able to lift their lower arm up as far as they could previously.
  • People who cannot straighten their elbow fully after a break, are suffering from reduced elbow extension. They may be unable to straighten their arm complete, as they could before the fracture occurred.

As will all joint fractures, arthritis is can be a problem later in life. As the bone heals, scar tissue is formed, which erodes the cartilage of the joint. Arthritis is a common condition caused by such damage to the cartilage. Mild cases can be treated with medication or through surgical procedures.

Contact Us to Find Out if You Qualify for Free Private Treatment

Have you suffered a broken elbow? Have you been settling for basic NHS treatment for your fractured elbow? We might be able to help you. We may be able to connect you with the free private medical care that is offered in your area.

This could be something simple, such as receiving a free expert orthopaedic assessment of your fractured elbow broken bone report. It could be a tangible offer, providing you with free medical supplies such as a high-quality sling. It could even be some free physiotherapy, that will help you rehabilitate faster, once your broken elbow has healed.

If you would like to know what free private medical care is available in your area, just give us a call. It will take us but a short time to discern whether your postcode entitles you to any form of free health care.