The elbow is a hinge joint made up of the humerus, ulna, radius, muscles, tendons and ligaments. It is designed to only bend back so far. If you experience your elbow bending further back than it should, this is called an elbow hyperextension. Anyone can experience a hyperextended elbow, but some are more likely to experience it than others.
What causes an elbow hyperextension injury?
Hyperextension injuries occur when the elbow joint is bent back further than the range of motion naturally occurs. This can occur due to a sporting accident such as football, boxing, tennis or gymnastics. It can also happen due to falling and landing with your arms outstretched in front of you, causing your arms to take the brunt of the fall. Elbow hyperextension injuries can also occur during weight-bearing activities such as yoga or weightlifting.
Toddlers can also be susceptible to hyperextended elbows due to their joints and bones not being fully developed.
9 symptoms of a hyperextended elbow injury
When a hyperextended elbow injury occurs, it can cause damage to the elbow joint. It also can cause noticeable symptoms including:
- A popping sound when extending your elbow.
- Dull to sharp pain when extending your elbow.
- Pain when your elbow is touched.
- Swelling in your elbow joint.
- Stiffness in your elbow and arm.
- Weakness in your arm and elbow.
- Spasming biceps when you extend your arm.
- Red or blotchy skin around your elbow.
- Numbness in your arm.
If you see any visible deformities, you can’t straighten your arm, or you have bone sticking through your skin, you should seek immediate medical assistance.
How is an elbow hyperextension injury diagnosed?
Your doctor may call for an X-ray, an MRI or CT scan imaging to be completed to have a better look of the elbow joint. These tests will be able to detect any possible fractures or tissue damage. Once your doctor knows the extent of the damage incurred, they will be able to prescribe treatment for your hyperextended elbow injury.
Treatments for a hyperextended elbow injury
Depending on the severity of your hyperextension, you may be able to manage your recovery at home. Your doctor may prescribe one or a combination of treatments such as:
- Cold therapy — Using an ice pack or bag of frozen vegetables in a cloth, place it on the affected elbow for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Repeat this every few hours for a few days after your injury. It is important to be awake for cold therapy and never put ice directly on your skin.
- Medications — Taking an OTC pain medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help reduce inflammation and pain.
- Compression — Using an elastic bandage around your hyperextended elbow may help prevent and relieve swelling in the joint. Wrap the joint firmly but not too tightly.
- Brace – Your doctor may put you in a brace to prevent further damage and allow your elbow time to heal properly. All guidance should be properly followed.
- Rest — Allow your elbow the chance to heal. Ease back into normal activities once cleared by your doctor or physical therapist.
- Surgery — If the damage is extensive enough, you may have to have surgery to repair your elbow.
- Physical therapy — Once your hyperextended elbow has had a chance to heal, your doctor may recommend you do physical therapy to help regain your range of motion and strength
Physical therapy stretches that can help your hyperextended elbow injury
Physical therapy is often an effective option for treating a hyperextended elbow injury or for rehabilitation after more involved medical care. Your physical therapist will teach you stretches that can help alleviate pain and allow you to regain strength and stability in your elbow. They may ask you to continue to do certain exercises at home to boost your recovery. It is important to follow any directions your physical therapist gives you. Notify them if you experience any changes in pain or range of motion either during your office visits or while completing exercises at home on your own. Exercises you may be asked to do include:
- Wrist flexion stretch.
- Wrist extension stretch.
- Static biceps contraction.
- Static triceps contraction.
- Resisted forearm supination and pronation.
Continuum Wellness is here to help you with your hyperextended elbow injury
At Continuum Wellness, we are confident our team of expert physical therapists can provide you with the best care to help relieve your pain from your hyperextended elbow. Our physical therapists will design a plan customized for you to help improve your life. You shouldn’t suffer any pain longer than necessary.
Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.