Elbow Contusions v. Elbow Fractures: What’s the Difference?

Get the answers to your elbow injury questions from our sports injury specialists.

The elbow is comprised of three bones: the distal humerus, which is the center of the elbow joint’s “hinge,” the radial head, which moves around the distal humerus and rotates along with the wrist, and the olecranon, which is the bony “point” of the elbow. These bones are supported by ligaments, muscles, and tendons.

When any of these delicate parts of the elbow joint are injured, you may find yourself in need of an orthopedic specialist at OrthoNOW Orthopedic Urgent Care Center.

Two of the most common elbow injuries that we treat include elbow fractures and contusions. Read on to learn the causes, symptoms, and treatments for these particular conditions:

What is an elbow contusion?

An elbow contusion is essentially a deep bruise to the elbow. It is caused by an injury to the elbow that causes blood to pool up under the skin. This can result from any rough contact or impact, including falling, being hit by a person or object, or other high-impact injuries.

Minor elbow contusions will display the characteristic blue, purple, or yellow bruising, but are often painless. More severe injuries often remain painful to the touch and swollen for several weeks.

How is an elbow contusion treated?

First, one of our orthopedic specialists will take an X-ray of the injury to make sure that there are no fractures or deeper problems than the bruising. After your physician makes the final diagnosis, you may be prescribed treatments or medications to help speed your recovery.

Along with physician-prescribed treatments, there are at-home treatments. At-home treatments for elbow contusions include:

  • Placing an ice pack on the affected area (for the first 1-2 days). To ice properly, apply for a maximum of 15 minutes per hour.
  • Warm compresses (after 2 days of ice).
  • Resting the elbow and restricting lifting or movement of the affected arm.
  • Elevating the elbow to reduce swelling.
  • Over-the-counter pain medication can also be used to provide relief.

What is an elbow fracture and what causes it?

An elbow fracture is a break in one or more of the bones that make up the elbow. It can be caused by any direct impact to the elbow, such as a fall with impact to the arm or elbow, or even a fall on an outstretched hand.

Symptoms of an elbow fracture include: pain, swelling, redness or bruising of the skin, numbness in the hand (a sign of potential nerve damage), and an inability or reluctance to straighten the arm.

How is an elbow fracture diagnosed and treated?

Our orthopedic specialists can diagnose an elbow fracture by assessing the affected arm and by using an x-ray machine, MRI, or CT scan to identify the extent of the injury.

Elbow fractures are treated in a variety of ways, including:

  • Splints, casts or slings. These tools help set the bone in place, helping it to heal correctly. They also help reduce pain by minimizing movement.
  • Pain relievers. NSAIDS are given to reduce swelling and minimize pain. Antibiotics might also be prescribed to prevent and fight infection, especially with open fractures (when the bone breaks through the skin). Other pain medications, such as an opioid, may be prescribed.
  • ARP Wave Treatment. Accelerated Recovery Performance (ARP) treatment is an innovative technique used to reverse chronic elbow pain and speed up recovery from injuries, such as elbow fractures.
  • Surgery is a method used when other methods cannot reset the bone. It is also used to remove pieces of bone that have broken off and are floating in the areas surrounding the elbow.

Visit OrthoNOW Orthopedic Urgent Care for Elbow Injuries

At our Miami emergency clinic, you don’t have to wait for hours in the emergency room, only to be referred to an orthopedic specialist.

If you would like to schedule an appointment, please call (855) 447-6784, or contact us online. To find your nearest location or speed up the treatment process, download the OrthoNOW mobile app to your smartphone. Walk-ins are always welcome.

With consult by Kate Samuels, PA-C.