How Can Stress Fractures Lead to Elbow Pain?

How Can Stress Fractures Lead to Elbow Pain?

by Alex Hirsch (SU)

When we think of a broken bone, we usually think of sports injuries or car accidents. However, another common way for a bone to break is via a stress fracture.

A stress fracture happens when a bone in the body breaks because of overuse. When a bone or joint is used repeatedly over long periods of time and continual stress is put on it, a stress fracture can develop.

A person may suffer a stress fracture when more pressure is put on the bone than it can handle, which leads to it breaking. Unlike in an accident, a stress fracture happens gradually.

It can take months or years for the bone to weaken and for the stress fracture to occur. A stress fracture can happen anywhere in the body, but the most common places are in the bones located in the lower legs and arms – including the elbow joint.

 

Link Between Stress Fractures and Elbow Pain

When a bone breaks as a result of an accident, you are likely to discover it pretty quickly because you feel sudden, focused pain. Because you are likely to see a doctor and get X-rays after an accident, even a small fracture is likely to be discovered; but discovering a stress fracture is more difficult. Stress fractures are generally smaller and cause less pain than accident fractures, so they often go undetected for quite some time. 

An olecranon fracture is a fracture that happens at the tip of the elbow. This type of fracture usually occurs due to blunt force, but it can also happen due to repeated stress and overuse of the arm, such as in tennis players or in certain manual occupations.

When an elbow fracture happens, you are likely to experience swelling at the tip of the elbow, bruising, tenderness, pain, and the inability to straighten your arm. You may also experience numbness in some fingers and instability in the elbow joint.

However, stress fractures anywhere else in the arm can also result in similar symptoms in the elbow. If you experience pain, swelling, stiffness, reduced range of motion, or discoloration near the elbow, but you didn’t experience a blunt-force blow to your arm, it’s possible you have a stress fracture somewhere in the arm.

 

Diagnosing Broken Bones Affecting the Elbow

To diagnose the reason behind elbow pain, your doctor will conduct a physical examination for signs of discoloration, swelling, abnormal positioning of bones, and pain on touch. The doctor will also order X-rays to confirm if and where a fracture exists. 

Depending on the location and severity of a stress fracture, the doctor will recommend treatment that may include a sling, cast, or splints. If the break is severe or complex, the physician may recommend surgery to ensure the bone heals properly.

 

Who Can Diagnose My Elbow Pain?

The Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence provides comprehensive orthopedic care to patients with musculoskeletal conditions, including stress fractures and elbow pain. Our orthopedic physicians treat a wide range of conditions, diseases, and injuries.

If you have been experiencing elbow pain, call us at (719) 623-1050 today to make an appointment. You can also request an appointment online. We look forward to helping you live a more pain-free lifestyle once again.