What is elbow sprain?

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Elbow sprain: Overview

An elbow sprain occurs when you overstretch or tear the ligaments around your elbow. Ligaments are the tough tissues that connect one bone to another. A sprain can happen when you fall or when you play sports or do chores around the house.

Most sprains will heal with some treatment at home.

How can you care for your child's elbow sprain?

  • Follow your doctor's directions for having your child wear a splint, an elbow pad, a sling, or an elastic bandage. Wrapping the elbow may help reduce or prevent swelling.
  • Make sure your child rests and protects the elbow. Do not allow any activity that hurts the elbow.
  • Apply ice or a cold pack to your child's elbow for 10 to 20 minutes at a time to reduce swelling. Try this every 1 to 2 hours for 3 days (when your child is awake) or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your child's skin.
  • After 2 or 3 days, if the swelling is gone, apply a warm cloth to the elbow. This helps keep the arm flexible. Some doctors suggest that you go back and forth between hot and cold. Keep the splint dry.
  • Prop up your child's elbow on pillows while you apply ice or anytime your child sits or lies down. Try to keep the elbow at or above the level of the heart to help reduce swelling.
  • Be safe with medicines. Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Let your child return to their usual level of activity slowly.

Elbow sprain in children: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child's pain is worse.
  • Your child has new or increased swelling in the elbow or hand.
  • Your child cannot bend the arm.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child's elbow looks red.
  • Your child has tingling, weakness, or numbness in the elbow, hand, or fingers.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • The pain is not better after 2 weeks.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.