You might expect elbow fractures to only occur in the young. However, older adults are just as susceptible to breaking bones in the elbow. When we fall or slip, we tend to stretch our arms to cushion the impact. The resulting force may damage not only the hand but also the elbow.
The elbow has three bones: humerus or the upper arm bone, radius or the forearm bone on the thumb side, and the ulna — the forearm bone on the pinky side. The most commonly fractured part is the ulna. However, the humerus and radius are just as vulnerable of breaking under a sudden impact.
An elbow fracture usually means you’ll experience joint pain, swelling, and bruising. You might also find it hard to bend or straighten the elbow. If you experience one or more of these symptoms after a fall, it’s best to visit an orthopedic surgery center.
What’s An Orthopaedic Surgery Center?
An orthopedic surgery center focuses on keeping the musculoskeletal system strong and healthy. This vital body system includes the bones, joints, and all sorts of connective tissue that make movement possible. While the staff at an orthopedic surgery center have the training to carry out surgery for any kind of fracture, they will exhaust non-surgical options first.
If you visit the Orthopaedic Surgery Center of San Antonio for elbow fracture treatment, your doctor will order an X-ray to confirm the extent of the damage. In some cases, your doctor may order additional X-rays of your upper arm, shoulder, wrist, and hand. The resulting images will help your doctor craft an appropriate treatment plan based on the extent of damage.
Elbow Fracture Treatment
Your treatment will depend on the severity of the fracture. There are three types of elbow fractures:
- Type I fractures feature small cracks, but the bone remains intact.
- Type II fractures involve minimal displacement of the bone.
- Type III fractures occur when more than three pieces of the bone break. In a type III fracture, the joints, ligaments, and surrounding structures are also damaged.
For type I fractures, your doctor will recommend conservative treatments. You may have to wear a splint or a sling to give the bone time to heal. During this time, refrain from lifting heavy items for a few weeks. Your doctor may also prescribe painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications. They will closely monitor your progress during follow-up checkups and order additional imaging tests to check if the bone is starting to heal.
For type II fractures where the bone becomes displaced, the treatment will depend on the level of displacement. Your doctor may stick with conservative treatments if the bone is mostly aligned. However, for cases where the fracture involves misalignment of large pieces of bone, your doctor may consider surgery. During the procedure, they will realign the broken pieces and keep them in place using pins, screws, or plates.
For type III fractures where there is significant damage to the bone, surgery is usually the best option. Your surgeon will remove bone fragments and repair soft tissue damage. If needed, they may perform a bone graft. This procedure involves taking a piece of bone from a healthy part of the body and moving it to the elbow.
Physical therapy is a vital element of elbow fracture treatment. Whether you undergo surgery or receive non-surgical treatment, working with a physical therapist can reduce pain and restore function in an injured arm sooner. Your physical therapist will design a customized rehabilitation plan to regain function, increase strength, and restore range of motion. The therapeutic modalities may include:
- Customized exercise plan
- Massage and joint mobilization
- Ice and heat therapies
- Electrical stimulation
Elbow Fracture Treatment Near Me In San Antonio, TX
Because your elbows play such a critical role in everyday movement, a fracture can set your life back in several ways.
Do you suspect you or someone you love may have sustained an elbow fracture? If so, visit the Center for Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine of San Antonio as soon as possible. Our specialists can provide prompt diagnosis and treatment for elbow fractures, especially radial head fractures.
Depending on the severity of the injury, we may recommend surgical and non-surgical treatments. You can trust our team to give you the care you need to recover as soon as possible.
To schedule an appointment with our providers, call us today at (210) 692-7400 or fill out our online appointment request form. We look forward to helping you recover safely.