Fractured Elbow? Or Torn Ligament?

I see these questions all the time and I realize that there is no way an internet audience can accurately say whether or not your bones are fractured. But I am just looking for opinions on whether I should wait it out a little longer, or just suck it up and get an x-ray. I really hate having to wait for hours at the doctors though to just have them say that its a sprain and I need to ice it.

Anyway, on to the problem. We have this evil cable cord lying on the ground that I have been bugging everyone in the house to help me figure out how to get it out of the way, well yesterday (it was still laying there evilly) and I tripped over it and fell forward. I put my hands out (instinctively, and obviously since that is the natural reaction) and my left elbow made this loud popping sound and I doubled over in pain. Well today I have no swelling, and both elbows are sore but my right elbow is not even a concern since its not even comparing to my left elbow. It hurts right where the radial head attaches to the elbow joints if you touch it, and when I straighten or bend my arms it is also painful. But here’s the deal, it is very painful but its nothing compared to the pain I felt when I broke my arm so I am wondering if its just a torn ligament or a fractured radial head. Like I said, there is no swelling, but on the opposite side of my elbow there is a very small bruise there. I have no deformities. Do radial fractures generally hurt really bad? If they do, then I am not concerned.

Also, if it turns out to be a radial head fracture what do they do? Do they just splint it? If that’s the case I already have a sling I can use, so I would rather save my insurance for something more important then just wasting my entire Saturday to have them tell me to sling it and ice it.

Sorry for the super long, boring question! ^_^ Any comments would be greatly appreciated though.

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  1. Herself, 16 December, 2009

    The only time I’ve ever broken a bone, I did it in the way you just described. I tripped and fell and put my arm out to catch myself, and got a radial head fracture.

    What they did for me was put it in a sling and give me prescription strength pain relievers, and there were instructions on how/when to take off the sling and when to start moving it around, etc. (There was no ice involved, by the way, but periodic soaking in hot water while I moved it was part of the recommended healing.)

    I guess it’s up to you as to whether or not you go get it checked, but personally, I think a broken bone is always worth investigating. Most of the time a radial head fracture is easy to treat and heals on its own, but it can be more complicated depending on the angle of the fracture, so it seems like it’s not something you really want to play around with.

  2. Mike H, 16 December, 2009

    Here is the deal…I understand your concerns over the insurance and the time it takes to go to Urgent Care or the ER. If you don’t want to go to the ER (although you should at least get a film of this soon) My suggestion then would be to call your family doctors office right now, leave a message for them to call you first thing monday morning and then get in there to be seen. If you can handle the pain for the weekend this is your best bet. Unfortunately for you, the mechanism of injury that you described along with the feeling and hearing a pop or crack, leads me to believe that you did fracture your radial head. This is not an easy fracture to deal with. It all depends on the severity of the break, if it is completely through the neck of the bone my guess is that surgery will be required. Radial head fractures are very tough to diagnose without an x-ray. Elderly people (not that you fit in this category) fracture these and they go untreated for weeks and months because the pain isn’t that intense, just more of an uncomfortable, nagging type of pain. hope this helps, good luck

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