If you're a weightlifter, Cross Fitter, or yogi, you know the importance of maintaining good form to prevent injuries. But did you know that hyperextending your elbows—straightening them beyond a 90-degree angle—can also lead to joint pain and other problems?
If you often find yourself hyperextending your elbow, you may be putting yourself at risk for an injury. Elbow injuries from hyperextension can range from mild to severe and can even require a surgical procedure to fix.
Read on to learn more about the risks of hyperextension and how to avoid them.
What Is Hyperextension Injury of the Elbow?
The elbow is a hinge joint. The hinge allows the forearm to move in two planes: flexion and extension. While the elbow can move through a wide range of motion, too much movement in either direction can lead to joint instability and injury.
Hyperextension is when the elbow joint is extended beyond its normal range of motion. This can happen suddenly, such as when you fall on an outstretched arm, or it can happen gradually, as with repetitive motions like tennis strokes.
It occurs most often in contact sports like rugby, football, boxing, and martial arts when the arm is struck. It may also occur when someone falls with their arms extended or during a weight-bearing exercise like gymnastics.
A hyperextension injury of the elbow can also happen when the elbow is extended too far backward or when the arm is forcefully pulled in a backward motion. The elbow joint is a hinge joint and is not meant to move in a backward direction.
When it is forced to do so, the ligaments and tendons that support the joint can become stretched or torn. This can lead to pain, swelling, and instability in the elbow joint.
Injuries from Elbow Hyperextension
Elbow hyperextension can cause several different injuries, including:
- Sprains: A sprain is a stretched or torn ligament, the tissue that connects bones together at a joint. Elbow hyperextension can cause a sprain of the ligaments that stabilize the elbow joint.
- Fractures: A fracture is a break in the bone. Elbow hyperextension can cause a fracture of the humerus (the bone in the upper arm) or the radius (one of the bones in the forearm).
- Dislocations: A dislocation occurs when the bone ends of a joint are forced out of alignment. Elbow hyperextension can cause the bones in the elbow joint to become dislocated.
- Tendonitis: Tendonitis is an inflammation of the tendons, the tissues that attach muscles to bones. Elbow hyperextension can cause tendonitis in the tendons that attach the forearm muscles to the elbow.
Elbow hyperextension injuries can be painful and can limit your ability to use your arm.
Symptoms of Elbow Injuries from Hyperextension
Elbow injuries from hyperextension are very common, especially among athletes, gym-goers, and yogis. The result is pain, swelling, and sometimes bruising.
Symptoms of elbow hyperextension include:
- Pain: This is the most common symptom and is usually felt inside the elbow. It can range from a dull ache to sharp, shooting pain.
- Swelling: This can occur immediately after the injury or develop over the next few hours.
- Bruising: This may not appear until a few days after the injury.
- Limited range of motion: You may not be able to fully extend or flex your elbow.
- Numbness or tingling: This is caused by the pressure on the nerves in the elbow.
If you think you have hyperextended your elbow, it is important to see a doctor. They will be able to diagnose the injury and recommend the best course of treatment. Treatment typically involves rest, ice, and elevation of the affected arm. Surgery may be necessary in some cases.
Naturally Hyperextended Elbow Treatment
If you have suffered an elbow hyperextension injury, there are many different treatment options available, depending on the severity of the injury. Most of which can be done at home.
Here are some of the treatment options:
1. Rest and Limit movement
The first step is to rest the joint and avoid any activities that may aggravate the injury. Stay away from sports and other activities that demand utilizing that arm.
Ice can be used to help reduce swelling and pain. Depending on the severity of the injury, a splint or sling may be necessary to immobilize the elbow joint and allow it to heal. Before returning to athletics, consult with your personal or team doctor.
Ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that may help lessen discomfort and swelling. Find out from your doctor how much medication you should take and how long.
3. Elevation and Compression
An elastic bandage may be wrapped across the joint to prevent movement and lessen swelling. Although it shouldn't sting or numb your arm, the wrap should be firm. In the first several days after the accident, rest your elbow on cushions over your heart.
4. Cold Therapy
While resting is necessary, you can use cold laser therapy to fasten the healing process. You can take this therapy home for 60 minutes daily using a cold laser machine.
Also, as we said earlier, using ice (wrapped in a cloth or towel) may assist with pain and swelling. After 20 minutes of application, wait 20 minutes before applying ice again. Repeat this as often as possible throughout the first week after the injury. Avoid using ice on your skin directly.
Surgical Treatment of Hyperextended Elbow
Surgery may be necessary to repair the damaged ligaments or tendons if the injury is more severe. The torn ligaments, tendons, or bones are fixed and realigned during surgery to facilitate proper healing.
You must keep your arm immobile for many weeks after the procedure. Also, physical therapy will be required to help regain strength and range of motion in the elbow joint.
A physical therapist or sports medicine physician may teach you exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding your elbow and aid in the ligaments' continued healing after your injury has had time to heal and you are pain-free.
Most people fully recover from elbow injuries caused by hyperextension with proper treatment.
How to Prevent Elbow Injuries from Hyperextension
Elbow hyperextension can be painful and lead to further complications if not treated properly.
To prevent elbow hyperextension, it is important to warm up properly before participating in any activity that may put stress on the elbow. Warming up will help to increase blood flow to the elbow and will help to reduce the risk of injury.
It is also important to use proper form when participating in activities that may put stress on the elbow. When doing activities such as weightlifting, it is crucial to keep the elbow close to the body and not extend the arm too far.
If you have a history of elbow hyperextension injuries, there are several things you can do to prevent future injuries. These include:
- Wearing elbow pads or other protective gear when participating in activities puts you at risk for elbow hyperextension.
- Strengthening the muscles that stabilize the elbow joint.
- Stretching the muscles and tendons around the elbow joint.
- Improving your balance and coordination.
If you have hyperextended your elbow, you know it can be a harrowing experience. Elbow injuries from hyperextension are not uncommon. If you think you may have hyperextended your elbow, you must see a doctor or other medical professional as soon as possible.
Elbow hyperextension can lead to further complications such as joint or nerve damage. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential to prevent these complications.