An elbow sprain is an injury that causes a stretch or tear of one or more of the ligaments in the elbow joint. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect bones at the joint.
Sprains may be graded 1, 2, or 3 depending on their severity:
Sometimes sprains are just classified as mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the amount of ligament damage.
An elbow sprain can occur from a fall onto your elbow or onto your outstretched arm. It may also happen if your arm and elbow is twisted or hyperextended.
You will have pain, swelling and difficulty bending and straightening your elbow and rotating your forearm. Your elbow will be tender to touch.
Your provider will review your symptoms, ask you how the injury occurred and examine your elbow. You may have an X-ray or an MRI.
As directed by your provider, use a sling or splint to keep the elbow from moving while it is painful and swollen. Sometimes a splint is used.
If severe ligament damage has occurred, surgery may be needed.
The effects of an elbow sprain usually last 3 to 6 weeks.
Everyone recovers from an injury at a different rate. Return to your activities depends on how soon your elbow recovers, not by how many days or weeks it has been since your injury has occurred. The goal of rehabilitation is to return you to your normal activities as soon as is safely possible. If you return too soon you may worsen your injury.
You may return to your activities when your elbow has full range of motion without pain and has the same strength as the uninjured side.