A fracture is a cracked or broken bone. Elbow fractures often occur when your upper arm and forearm bones jam together with force. Fractures can happen when you extend your arm straight to break a fall. Medical treatment is needed right away to relieve pain and give your elbow the best chance to heal fully. Your doctor may put your arm in a splint or cast to keep it from moving (immobilize). Some fractures may require surgery. You may begin elbow exercises a few weeks after your injury.

Radial Head Fractures

This is the most common type of elbow fracture. Bones meet “head to head”. The radial head jams against the capitellum (“little head”) of the humerus. The radial head may either crack (hairline fracture) or break apart (displaced fracture).

Other Fractures

Other arm bones may have hairline or displaced fractures that affect the elbow. An olecranon fracture happens to the ulna at the tip of the elbow. A humeral fracture happens to the upper arm bone. Some displaced fractures may require surgery.


Ice and elevation – For the first 24 to 48 hours, you can place ice packs on your elbow and raise it to reduce swelling.

Immobilization – Your doctor may immobilize your arm in a splint or cast for 2 to 4 weeks.

Pain medication – Your doctor may prescribe a pain reliever. Or you may be advised to take aspirin for pain relief during your recovery.

Finger and shoulder exercises – These help prevent stiffness.