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What is a medial collateral ligament sprain of the elbow?

The medial collateral ligament of the elbow provides support along the inner aspect of the elbow. It can be injured if it overstretched. Physiotherapy is an important treatment for medial collateral ligament sprain of the elbow.

How does a medial collateral ligament sprain of the elbow occur?

The medial collateral ligament may be overstretched in a single incident such as an unnatural bending or twisting movement of the elbow. It can also be caused by continuous stretching of the ligament over a period of time such as performing overhead throwing activities. If performed repeatedly over a period of time, this can cause overstretching of the ligament and, therefore, inflammation and scarring within the ligament will occur.

What are the symptoms of a medial collateral ligament sprain of the elbow?

When the medial collateral ligament is overstretched, it causes pain. This pain usually felt along the inside surface of the elbow. If the medial collateral ligament is injured in a single incident, this pain will be felt at the time of the injury. However, if the ligament is injured by repeated stretching of the ligament, the onset of pain will often be more gradual. Initially, the pain may only be present following a session of hard throwing. However, following more throwing sessions, the pain may progress to become present during throwing and eventually all the time. Other symptoms include:

What should I do if I have a medial collateral ligament sprain of the elbow?

To limit the severity of a medial collateral ligament injury it is advised that you stop your activity immediately. The first 24–48 hours is the most important time in the treatment of any injury. Swelling is a necessary step in the healing process; however too much swelling can delay healing and cause further tissue damage. To control the amount of swelling and limit the degree of damage to the elbow, the RICE regime should be followed (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). Icing will reduce the extent of swelling and tissue damage by reducing blood flow to the injured area.

If your medial collateral ligament injury has developed due to repeated minor trauma, the inflammatory process taking place may have become chronic. Therefore, it may not respond as well to the RICE regime. It is, however, still advised that you follow this regime to help control the inflammation and swelling, and help reduce your pain. It is also advisable you avoid any activities that you think may have caused your injury, such as throwing.

Following this initial treatment, you should consult your physiotherapist for specific treatment.

Physiotherapy treatment for a medial collateral ligament sprain of the elbow.

Physiotherapy is very important in the treatment of a medial collateral ligament injury of the elbow. Initially your physiotherapist will diagnose your problem and its severity and will determine an appropriate treatment plan. This often involves activity modification, soft tissue treatment such as electrotherapy, massage and stretching, and the progression through a series of specific strengthening exercises. The physiotherapists at Physio.co.uk will also be able to assess why you developed a medial collateral ligament injury and address this during your recovery to prevent a re-occurrence when you return to full activity. Other treatments may include:

What shouldn’t I do if I have a medial collateral ligament sprain of the elbow?

If you have or suspect you have injured your medial collateral ligament, you should avoid increasing blood flow to the injured area. Increased blood flow can increase bleeding and swelling around the injured ligament and potentially prolong your recovery. This means avoiding hot showers, heat rubs, the consumption of alcohol and excessive activity. You should not continue to exercise until you have seen your physiotherapist as this may lead to further stretching and injury to the ligament.

Could there be any long-term effects of a medial collateral ligament sprain of the elbow?

Medial collateral ligament injuries generally heal without complication or long-term effects within a matter of weeks. However, when the medial collateral ligament is injured, it is not uncommon to injure surrounding structures at the same time. Injury to these structures may prolong your recovery. Recovery may also be delayed if the injury is not appropriately diagnosed and managed. This may result in a poorly healed ligament which is susceptible to reinjury when you return to exercise and sport.

To arrange a physiotherapy appointment call Physio.co.uk on 0330 088 7800 or book online.

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