What is Elbow Hyperextension?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 01 March 2020
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Elbow hyperextension is an injury that usually results from a fall or a direct blow to the elbow that causes the arm to bend backward, beyond its normal range of motion. Hyperextension is typically very painful, and the joint tends to swell and stiffen shortly after the incident. Most cases can be treated at home and do not result in permanent damage to tissue in the elbow. Severe pain and swelling, however, should be assessed by a physician to check for serious ligament, tendon, or bone damage.

Hyperextension injuries are most common among athletes who play fast-paced contact sports, such as football, soccer, and hockey. When the arm is forced backward, ligaments and tendons that connect bone, cartilage, and muscle can be strained or torn. Elbow hyperextension is immediately noticeable in most cases, though a milder injury might not cause debilitating pain right away. Over the course of several hours, an injured elbow tends to swell, stiffen, and redden. Some people experience numbness due to pressure on nearby nerves and blood vessels.


A person who believes that he or she has suffered a mild elbow hyperextension injury can reduce pain and swelling by resting the joint, applying an ice pack, and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs. It is important to avoid strenuous physical activity for several days following an elbow hyperextension injury to give the joint time to heal. Once the elbow starts feeling better in one to two weeks, an individual can engage in light stretching and gripping exercises to rebuild strength and flexibility. Many people invest in braces or wraps to provide extra support during the recovery phase.

Severe elbow hyperextension usually necessitates a trip to the emergency room. Upon admittance into the hospital, a doctor can conduct a physical examination, ask about symptoms, and take x-rays of the joint. Diagnostic tests may reveal torn cartilage, ligaments, or tendons. Injuries that are caused by direct blows may also result in bone fractures. Depending on the nature and severity of the injury, a doctor may decide to inject anti-inflammatory drugs into the joint, place the arm in a sling or cast, or consider surgery.

Surgical procedures to repair ligaments or tendons may involve suturing existing tissue together or grafting tissue from another part of the body into the elbow joint. Following surgery, an individual usually needs to participate in physical therapy for several months to regain full use of the elbow. Doctors stress the importance of thorough stretching and wearing protective equipment during sports to help prevent future elbow injuries.


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Post 1

My elbow hurts at the bend on the inside. It feels like a ligament or tendon. I cannot keep it straight for a long period of time. If I do, it gets really stiff and my fingers get numb after a while. I can also feel a lump. I feel that it is just a pulled ligament or torn tendon?

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