What is an Elbow Fracture?

An elbow fracture refers to a breakage occurring at the tip of the elbow, typically resulting from various forms of trauma such as direct impact, falls onto the elbow, or landing on an outstretched hand.


There are three different types of Elbow Fractures:

Olecranon Fractures: These fractures involve the pointy tip of the elbow, known as the olecranon, part of the ulna bone in the forearm. The olecranon is particularly susceptible to breakage due to its lack of muscular covering or protection.

Radial Head Fractures: This type of fracture occurs at the point where the radial head connects with the humerus, the upper arm bone. It often happens when an individual attempts to break a fall with their arm, causing the radial head to press into the humerus and resulting in a fracture.

Distal Humerus Fractures: The distal humerus, linking the shoulder to the elbow, can also sustain fractures, although they are less common. Trauma or falling onto a bent elbow are typical causes of such fractures.

Signs & Symptoms

Recognizing a fractured elbow involves being attentive to various signs and symptoms, including notable swelling both above and below the elbow joint, accompanied by bruising in the surrounding area of the elbow or the arm. One may observe deformity in the elbow or adjacent regions, along with experiencing pain during elbow movement or forearm rotation. Sensations of numbness or coldness in the fingers, hand, or forearm can also indicate a potential fracture, alongside tenderness upon touching the affected area. Stiffness and limited mobility are common, manifesting as difficulties in extending, flexing, or rotating the elbow or arm.

Causes of Elbow Fractures

An elbow fracture often arises from various forms of trauma, including accidents or sports-related injuries. Such fractures frequently occur when an individual attempts to cushion a fall using an outstretched arm, subjecting the elbow joint to considerable force. Whether from a sudden impact or the forceful absorption of energy during a fall, the delicate structures of the elbow can become compromised, leading to fractures in the bones comprising the joint. These fractures can range in severity from minor hairline cracks to more complex breaks requiring immediate medical attention. Understanding the mechanisms behind elbow fractures is crucial in preventing such injuries and facilitating timely treatment.

Prevention Methods

While completely avoiding the risk of elbow fractures may not be feasible, there are proactive measures individuals can take to significantly diminish their likelihood. Incorporating appropriate protective gear during sports activities serves as a crucial preventive measure, shielding the elbow joint from potential impact or trauma. Maintaining a consistent exercise regimen aimed at strengthening the muscles surrounding the elbow can enhance overall joint stability and resilience. Learning and adhering to proper techniques during sports participation further mitigates the risk of injury, minimizing the strain placed on the elbow during repetitive motions or sudden movements. Implementing strategies to reduce the chances of falling, such as improving balance and being mindful of environmental hazards, can effectively decrease the probability of sustaining a fracture. By taking part in these preventive practices, individuals can empower themselves to actively reduce their susceptibility to elbow fractures and promote long-term joint health.

Elbow Fracture Treatment Options


If the bone fragments remain aligned, a fracture may be managed through the application of a splint, which stabilizes the elbow and facilitates proper healing. Throughout the recovery period, your physician will conduct regular X-rays to monitor the alignment of the bone and ensure it remains in its proper position. Typically, the splint is worn for approximately six weeks before gradually initiating gentle movement exercises. However, if the fracture displaces during this initial healing phase, surgical intervention may be necessary to realign and secure the bone fragments.


Surgery becomes necessary for olecranon fractures under specific circumstances, notably when the bones become displaced or when there’s an open fracture, characterized by bone protrusion through the skin. In such cases, the surgical procedure focuses on realigning the fractured bone fragments and securing them to prevent further displacement until complete healing is achieved.

For open fractures, immediate surgical intervention is crucial to minimize the risk of infection. Typically, surgery is scheduled promptly following diagnosis, often within hours. Upon arrival at the emergency room, patients receive intravenous antibiotics to mitigate the risk of infection, along with a tetanus shot if necessary. During the surgical procedure, meticulous cleaning of the wound and fractured bone surfaces is performed to reduce the risk of complications. The bone is then repaired and stabilized during the same surgical session.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in addressing the stiffness commonly associated with elbow fractures, which can persist even after the bones have healed. To counteract this stiffness and restore functionality, healthcare providers often recommend initiating physical therapy soon after the injury occurs. Individuals undergo a tailored rehabilitation program aimed at regaining full use of the elbow and arm. Various physical therapy techniques are employed to expedite the return to normal activity levels.

Central to the physical therapy regimen are exercises targeting range of motion (ROM) restoration. The elbow joint is intricate, facilitating arm bending and hand movements, necessitating full ROM for optimal functionality. Through targeted exercises, individuals work towards achieving and maintaining the necessary flexibility and mobility in the elbow and forearm, ultimately facilitating a complete recovery and return to normal activities.

Exercises After Elbow Fracture Treatment

Here are some recommended exercises that may aid in your condition or rehabilitation journey. It’s essential to begin slowly and discontinue any activity that causes discomfort. Your healthcare provider will advise you on when to commence these exercises and which ones suit your specific needs.

  1. Elbow Flexion Stretch

   – Lift the affected arm and bend the elbow, ensuring your palm faces toward you

   – Gently apply pressure on the back of your forearm with your other hand, pushing it towards your shoulder until a stretch is felt in the upper arm

   – Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat 2 to 4 times

  1. Hand Flips

   – While seated, place your affected forearm on your thigh with the palm facing down

   – Alternate flipping your hand over so that the back of your hand rests on your thigh and your palm faces upward

   – Repeat this motion 8 to 12 times

  1. Forearm Pronation and Supination Stretch

   – Keep your affected elbow bent at approximately 90 degrees and close to your side

   – Grip a thin object like a pen, or pencil, or stick it with your hand or make a fist if no object is available

   – Slowly rotate your forearm back and forth, ensuring your hand faces up and then down

   – Hold each position for 15 to 30 seconds, feeling the stretch in your forearm, and repeat 2 to 4 times

At Hicksville Physical Therapy, we prioritize your well-being, especially when it comes to recovering from elbow fractures. Located in Nassau County, Long Island, our dedicated team is here to support you on your journey to full recovery. Reach out to us today by calling (516) 788-7309 to speak with a member of our team or contact us online.

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