How can I tell if I've fractured my elbow?

Dr. Devon M. Jeffcoat, MD
Orthopedic Surgeon
You may have fractured your elbow if you’ve had a fall on an outstretched hand or a direct injury to your elbow. If there is obvious deformity under the skin or instability of the elbow or forearm, this should be seen in the emergency room (ER) right away. If the elbow can be moved normally and is just somewhat painful, there may not be a fracture. If the pain persist for more than two to three days it is probably worth an evaluation in the orthopedic clinic and likely x-rays to rule out a fracture and to evaluate for any other injuries.

When an elbow fracture is suspected, the individual...

  1. May be holding the arm and elbow at an odd angle as well as in a protective position;
  2. May not be able to fully extend the elbow or fully bend the elbow;
  3. Will have pain when turning palm up and down and will not be able to turn palm up or down through a complete motion due to pain or a reported blocking sensation of motion;
  4. Can have swelling in a more localized area of the elbow as opposed to the who area of the elbow as a whole;
  5. May report feeling a grinding sensation with any movement of the elbow.

If an elbow fracture is suspected seek medical attention from a physician.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.