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Elbow Fractures

The elbow is a joint that comprises three bones; the humerus, the radius, and the ulna. Your elbow joint flexes and straightens like a hinge. Also, it is necessary to rotate the forearm, that is, the capacity to turn your palm up or palm down.

The elbow joins the upper arm, called the humerus, to the ulna and the radius, the bones that constitute the forearm. A fracture can arise in either one of the bones which form the elbow.

Rarely, an injury to the elbow might even move the bones of the joint out of place, limiting the rigidity and range of motion of the joint. This is termed a fracture-dislocation.

Fractures in the elbow cause various symptoms and complications. They are:

  • Prominent deformity visible at the elbow
  • Inflammation and bruises on the elbow
  • Immense pain in the elbow region or the whole arm
  • Tightness in or around the elbow
  • Possible numbness or weakness throughout the arms, wrists, and hands
  • Crack or snap at the moment of the injury

Elbow fractures can occur from falling, a direct blow towards the elbow, or twisting trauma to the arm. Sprains, strains, or dislocations may develop at the very same time as a fracture. The three most prevalent fractures that occur at the elbow are:

  • Distal humerus fracture: The distal humerus is the rounded bottom section of the bone linking the shoulder to the elbow. Distal humerus fractures happen due to a direct hit to the elbow, placing your hand out to prevent a fall, or landing on a bent elbow. Distal humerus fractures are relatively uncommon.
  • lecranon fracture: Olecranon fractures generally happen only when tricep muscles over the elbow rapidly tense during a fall. The olecranon is the bone located at the point of the elbow. It is especially susceptible to fracture since muscles or any other tissues don't surround it.
  • Radial head fracture: The radial head is just the bone in the elbow that joins with the humerus in the elbow joint. These fractures often occur when a person throws their arm out to prevent a fall. The impact can force the radial head to drive into the humerus so strongly that it creates a fracture.

Various risk factors induce elbow fractures:

  • Falling into an outstretched arm, particularly from a standing posture, or a contorting injury to the arm.
  • Elderly individuals are more prone to develop an elbow fracture.
  • If you have osteoporosis or developing a condition that weakens the bones.
  • Competing in sports like football, volleyball, wrestling, and gymnastics.
  • Becoming post-menopausal or experiencing other diseases that result in bone or mineral loss.

Neurovascular injury results from damage to the vital blood vessels serving the brain, brain stem, and higher spinal cord, comprising the basilar, vertebral, and carotid arteries. Elbow fractures can result in these injuries. Sometimes, the bones broken protrude through the skin and makes the arm appear misshapen.

If it occurs in an emergency department or during an office visit, a physical exam of the damaged area is required to diagnose an elbow fracture.

Further imaging might be required to confirm the occurrence and degree of the injury:

  • A Computed Tomography scan or CT scan might be needed to provide a better detailed view of the fracture pieces.
  • X-ray: A type of imaging used to determine whether or not fractures exist.

Non-surgical treatment: If the bones are correctly aligned rather well, the doctor may recommend therapy in plaster or brace for about a month. A follow-up x-ray one week following the damage is usually required to ensure the bones do not slip out of place.

Surgical treatment: If the bones do not fall in line, your doctor may propose resetting the bones to restore them in position. Often, this can be accomplished without surgery. More typically, pins, screws, or wires are necessary to hold the bones aligned for roughly a month while they recover. A plaster or cast is used chiefly for additional protection after surgery. Typically, the pins are short-term and will be removed after the bone is healed.

It takes about six weeks for the elbow fracture to heal completely, but you must keep moving your arm as this will speed your recovery.
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Sports Injuries

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It is most common for athletes to develop injuries related to elbows or arms because almost all outdoor sports activities require regular arm and body movements. This can lead to overworking the muscles, further leading to some of the most common injuries, such as a fracture or spraining the muscles or tissues.

Athletes are often used to getting injured during their practice or even while performing at sports events. Still, it is to be kept in mind that certain conditions might lead to further complications if not given proper medical attention on time.

Seeking proper medical treatment and attention in case of injuries is the right course of action when it comes to sports and athletics.

Some of the most common types of elbow injuries related to sports:

  • Arthritis: This refers to the condition of inflammation of joints which can get serious as the person ages. People with arthritis experience severe joint pain and stiffness.
  • Burners and Stingers: This condition gets developed when the muscles in the neck and shoulder regions are stretched or compressed extensively.
  • Golfer's elbow: Athletes with the condition of a Golfer’s elbow experience severe pain in parts of their inner elbow region. This can be caused due to excessive wrist or hand movements.
  • Nursemaid's elbow: This condition is developed during early childhood when the elbow joint gets dislocated due to getting pulled excessively. It is also known as "radial head subluxation."
  • Tendon tears: Some of the minor tendon and ligament tears often get healed on their own, but in cases of severe pain in the ligament or tendon, one must seek medical attention.
  • Ulnar collateral ligament injury (UCL): Injury or tearing up of the ligament that connects the inner part of our upper arm (humerus) to the inner part of our forearm (ulna) is known as the UCL injury.
  • Ulnar nerve entrapment: This condition induces a tingling sensation in the forearm, ring, and little fingers. An injury to the ulnar nerve can take up to several months to get completely healed; however, the immediate symptoms might just go away in a matter of a few days.
  • Valgus extension overload (VEO): This condition gets developed due to overuse of the elbow or the arm used to throw by the athlete. This leads to severe pain, swelling, and possible numbness of the elbow and may cause the development of bone spurs.
  • Elbow Bursitis: The swelling of the bursa sac located on the bone tip of the elbow is known as elbow bursitis. This condition can be treated by providing regular heat or cold therapy or by simply taking regular care of the affected region.

The list of injuries related to the elbow can go on for pages, but these are some of the most common types of injuries experienced by athletes regularly.

People who develop these conditions of elbow and arm injuries are likely to experience and notice the following symptoms:

  • One of the physically visible symptoms can be a dislocated bone that is completely out of shape and structure.
  • The athlete might experience a certain level of pain which might range from mild to severe.
  • Stiffness of the arm or elbow can also be a sign of elbow bruise or injury.
  • The player also might experience restriction in their arm or elbow movement.
  • Swelling and redness are other physically visible signs of elbow injuries.
  • Athletes might even experience shooting tingling sensations and numbness up and down their arm or elbow.

Athletes who experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms are advised to go for the following scans to detect any potential inner swelling, dislocation of muscles and ligaments, or fractures:

  • X-rays
  • Arthrograms (X-rays of the joints)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Computed tomography scans (CT scans)

Some of the best treatments for elbow injuries would be taking pain killers as advised by the doctors, opting for surgical procedures for advanced cases such as injections, ultrasounds, and surgeries.

In case the athletes develop cases of tumor due to inner swelling, they are advised to consult experienced oncologists and get chemotherapy to get the tumor dissolved.

Elbow Bursitis

This is one of the most common types of bursitis; generally, many fluid-filled fluid-filled glands are located in the human body that acts as pillows between the rigid bone structure and the muscles. One such bursa gland is located in the bone tip of the elbow, which is generally supposed to be a flat fluid-filled sac.

Elbow bursitis is when this gland gets swollen due to irritation or inflammation, and thus more fluid gets accumulated in the gland leading to elbow bursitis. This condition is also known as Olecranon Bursitis in medical terms.

This condition may lead to further complications, but elbow bursitis generally goes away within a week or two if it is properly taken care of.

  • The main reason why the bursa gland might get swollen is if we provide a lot of pressure on the elbow, which would eventually lead to more fluid accumulating in the bursa gland.
  • Another most common reason for the swelling of the bursa gland is getting hit on the elbow with a lot of pressure. This may more often than not lead to elbow bursitis.
  • People related to the professions of- sports, plumbing, or electric technicians are the ones who are more likely to develop elbow bursitis because their job entails them bending on their knees and elbows.
  • And finally, this might be the least common cause of elbow bursitis but, infection in the elbow region might also lead to swelling of the bursa gland on the elbow. Infection tends to cause skin breakage, and an infected bursa gland causes an abnormal amount of fluid to accumulate.

Some of the most common symptoms of elbow bursitis include:

  • Elbow ache: The swollen bursa gland causes continued pain in the elbow, which can be noticed easily along with the other symptoms
  • Redness and Swelling: This is the most tell-tell sign of elbow bursitis, and this would require your immediate attention
  • Stiffness: The lower bone of the elbow region may feel stiff due to the swollen bursa sac
  • Trouble moving elbow and arm: As the bursa sac in the elbow gets swollen, the person may experience pain in moving their elbow or arm in general.

  • In most cases, elbow bursitis gets cured after two weeks or so; hence, taking a rest or a break would be the most optimal thing to do if you have developed a condition of elbow bursitis.
  • Icing the elbow in the case of swelling or inflammation can provide relief from swelling of the bursa. Within the first 48 hours, the cold can regulate the blood flow in the bursa sac.
  • Even applying heat in the form of water to the elbow region can help in the reduction of swelling and stiffness. The water applied to the swelling must be lukewarm rather than being completely hot.
  • Regulating the movement of the elbow and the arm would also help reduce the swelling of the bursa sac. Activities that require you to perform regular arm movements must be avoided for a certain period or until the swelling goes back to normal.
  • Taking painkillers is also an option to reduce pain and inflammation. There are various forms of painkillers available in the market that do not require a doctor's prescription, Such as Aspirin, Ibuprofen, and Naproxen.
  • You can also take care of your elbow by using a cushion or an elbow pad to relieve the swelling area and avoid stiffness. This pad can be heated or cooled as per requirement and used until the redness and swelling disappear.

Elbow bursitis, also known as Olecranon bursitis, is one of the most common types of bursitis, which can get cured on its own given that it's not disturbed by other physical factors and the elbow region is provided proper rest and care.

There are several ways to regulate the swelling of the bursa sac and the redness of the elbow region; providing regular heat or cold therapy can be helpful.

The condition of elbow bursitis can lead to rheumatoid arthritis and gout if not treated with care.
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