When should I see a doctor?

The majority of arm and elbow injuries, especially the minor ones, can be treated at home. However, if you have any of the following symptoms you should seek further medical assistance.

  • Severe pain in the upper arm, elbow or forearm, especially after a fall.
  • Severe swelling (oedema) around the injured area.
  • An audible “crack” of the upper arm or forearm after a fall.
  • A feeling when the bone at the elbow comes out of its joint (dislocates) – a common injury seen in young children that is caused accidentally (see above).
  • Altered sensation in the hand or arm – such as a feeling of “pins and needles” (paresthesia) or a “loss of feeling” (anaesthesia) in the hand.
  • Unable to complete your normal daily activities after the initial 72 hours.

Further medical assistance can be sought through either your local GP or a private clinician such as a physiotherapist, sports therapist, osteopath or chiropractor.

In the first instance, if you have followed the P.R.I.C.E. principles (see below) and are still unable to move the arm at all after 24 hours or still have severe pain that is not subsiding after the first 72 hours you should visit your local A&E department for further assessment.  Also, if your elbow “pops out” (dislocated), feels loose (“unstable”) or locks (unable to move the elbow due to extreme pain) then you should consult your doctor or visit A&E.

Secondly, if you have applied for P.R.I.C.E. principles and still have weakness that lasts a long time (more than 2 weeks) or have ongoing discomfort in your arm or elbow, you are highly recommended to seek advice from a specialist expert - such as a physiotherapist, sports therapist, osteopath, or chiropractor - who can provide you with advice and an appropriate and effective recovery and rehabilitation program.

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