After falling hard on my straight arm, I can't straighten the elbow

by Randy

During a wrestling match, I was lifted up and fell hard on the mat, with most of the other guy's weight on me. I landed most of the weight on my left arm, which was locked out straight. I could feel pain right away, and knew something was wrong with my arm, mainly in my elbow.

My inner elbow was swollen for about 2 weeks, and I havent been able to straighten it out or bend it all the way since the day of the injury. My range of motion with my elbow has grown to being fine all the way up to entirely straight and bent as far as it goes. Anywhere in this range of motion, my elbow feels fine; I have held 50 pounds with it, and had no problem, as long as I didnt try to straighten my arm or bend it to where my bicep was touching my forearm.

I got an X-ray, and the doctor said the bone was fine, just the tissue and stuff around it was hurt, and would heal soon. But, I havent really been seeing any improvement lately, 4 or 5 weeks after the injury.

Before my injury, I was doing intense workouts, both heavy weights and lots of calisthenics, and I noticed an occasional small ache in my left elbow, usually when I was doing homework at my desk, making me worried I was getting tennis elbow or something, though it never got bad. I don't know if that has anything to do with my injury now, but maybe it contributed to my lasting injury.

Anyways, do you have any way to get my arm to be able to straighten out and bend all the way? As I said, I am perfectly fine moving weights as long as I keep it within my range of motion with my elbow. Thanks!


Joshua Answers:

Hi Randy.

I'm unclear, it looks like you said both that you do and don't have full range of motion with the elbow now.

Tendon injury is FAR different from joint injury.

Read this thread - Help Identifying Inner Elbow Pain Can't Straighten Arm - it talks mostly about the soft tissue side of things, and will be educational.

While you may have some Tendonitis dynamic at play due to being athletic etc, the description of the impact to the straight elbow is good information.

See: What Is Tendonitis

I would adjust the doctor's words to say 'the tissue -in- it' are hurt. Inside the joint. The tissue around the joint is unhappy too, of course, but that's all part of the Pain Causing Dynamic.

If you have bruised/inflamed the joint/joint lining of the elbow, that's a very specific animal. Quick results aren't to be expected, though you can do some specific things to speed the recovery up. Bone bruises are painful and slow to go away, even though there's not necessarily any 'injury' per see. They're just slow and painful.

Please clarify for me:

1. what is your current range of motion with the elbow.

2. Pain anywhere in the range?

3. Pain anywhere in the range with extra weight added.

4. Can you do a full push up? If not, what exactly is the experience consist of?

5. You were having elbow pain before the event. More details of how, where exactly, etc.

6. You said homework. Are you high school, college, or old man back to school and sports?

7. The more details, the better.

Please reply using the comment link below. Do not submit a new submission to answer/reply, it's too hard for me to find where it's supposed to go.

And, comments have a 3,000 character limit so you may have to comment twice.

Joshua Tucker, B.A., C.M.T.
The Tendonitis Expert

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Comments for After falling hard on my straight arm, I can't straighten the elbow

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Apr 25, 2012
I have not been able to fully straighten my elbow for a while now and do not know why.
by: Davis

My name is Davis. I play baseball virtually year round. This fall after a game I tried to throw again for the second game and felt a good amount of pain from my elbow.

It does not hurt to fully extend or bend it. I have been working out as well as practicing every week day for a few months and have had minor pain sometimes in my elbow but nothing huge.

Recently I have noticed that I cannot extend my right arm fully to lock the joint in place like I can with my left arm. My coach does not know why I cannot straighten my arm but doesn't see it as a big deal. I would still like to know why this has happened and if I can fix it. If you can respond with anything it would be greatly appreciated


Joshua Comments:

Hi Davis.

Randy's question and my response is relevant to you so I put this here (and for Randy's benefit too).

Randy had joint -compression-. You have -DEcompression-. Meaning, as your arm whips around, the joint gets pulled apart and ligaments and muscles/tendons get pulled apart.

This causes irritation of a different kind, but results in the same limitation of elbow range of motion.

Your coach SHOULD think it's a big deal...if he wants you to survive as somebody with the ability to throw a baseball.

Ultimately, you can't straighten your elbow because the muscle and connective tissue are locked tight and won't give you the range of motion. There are other factors involved, of course.

Read Randy's question. Read Help Identifying Inner Elbow Pain Can't Straighten Arm.

Apr 29, 2012
Help straightening my arm
by: Davis true

Thanks but then how can I work my arm to be able to straighten it again?


Joshua Comments:

Read the page I pointed you to.

Apr 30, 2012
Cannot find any hot-spot
by: Anonymous

I read what I should do but I cannot find any pea sized or smaller bump on my arm anywhere in my bicep or tricep. Not sure where else to look or how else to make this go away.


Joshua Comments:

There's no rule that there has to be a bump or lump in the muscle. But I guarantee you there's tight spots, and I imagine that there's tender spots.

On the off chance that you're soft as butter, then , pain is from nutritional and inflammatory issues.

Jan 31, 2013
Fell on straight arm during a volleyball game
by: Jessica

Recently during a volleyball game I fell on my arm which was out straight. Now I can't fully extend or flex my arm and it is painful. I haven't noticed swelling. Normally my elbows hyper-extend, and I can't get anywhere near that range of motion now. I have a hard time flexing it much past 90 degrees.

When I am not trying to "push it", my arm doesn't hurt at all. Also, I can't lift, or twist things with that had without pain. Immediately after the injury I felt a tingling numbness spread through my arm. What might be happening here? Thank you!


Joshua Comments

Hi Jessica.

-Probably- it's a scenario where you jammed your elbow and shoulder, and the elbow joint has swelling that is limiting range of motion.

Or it's out of alignment and can't swing through it's normal groove. I don't normally suggest chiropractic, but if you can find somebody knowledgeable with elbows it might be worth a visit. Having said, if it's in alignment but the bones/joint lining etc has some swelling going on, chiropractic isn't directly going to help that.

Tell me more about the tingling etc. That's likely a function of muscles having locked down tight and not let go yet, guarding and protecting the 'hurt' structures.

If you jammed your shoulder, that affected your neck too, so it's possible the neck/shoulder is contributing to that tingling. Again, not a big fan of chiropracty, but it's great for what it's great for. Might be worth it to un-jam anything that got knocked out of whack from the impact.

Jun 16, 2014
i fell on my straightend arm at cheerleading stunt practice.
by: Ellie-Mae

Ok so a week or two ago I fell on my straighten arm from the air (I'm a flyer at cheer) and I visited the hospital and had X-Rays done.

They told me I had sprained it and to leave it to rest for a couple days then I should be fine. But I still haven't been able to straighten my arm so it's locked or bend it fully to the shoulder there are a few healing cuts around my elbow as well, supports don't help and I'm starting to get really worried as I have a Cheerleading competition in a few weeks.

Does anyone know if it is a sprain or worse? And will/How will I ever be able to straighten it ever again?


Joshua Comments:

Hi Ellie-Mae.

1 So they just left you with a stuck straight elbow and didn't give you anything 'to do' about it (other than rest and anti-inflammatories.

2. Did they diagnose a sprain because they say ligament damage in the xray? Or because they had to call it something and that was as good as any since no fracture was visible?

The answer to that question matters.

3. Tell me more about the impact. You landed like a pushup, or like a hand stand?

4. Do you have a sense of what's stopping the elbow joint from bending? Probably the joint/joint lining itself is swollen, so it's essentially locked/stuck from the insides. Kind of like (this is a horrible analogy but it's all I can think of at the moment) the big board of a teeter totter soaked in water so it swells up and 'grabs' the metal rod that is the fulcrum point.

Do you think an arm bone is out of alignment/dislocated?

5. You're going to have to do some serious serious work if you want to be competing in two weeks.

A. Understand Process of Inflammation
B. Ice Dip like crazy. And I mean, like crazy.
See: How To Reduce Inflammation
See relevant story: Thumb Ligament Injury
C. Natural anti-inflammatories like tumeric.
D. Magnesium For Tendonitis

Answer my questions, keep me updated.

Feb 19, 2015
2 year old with a tight elbow
by: Ashley

My 2 year old fell and dislocated her elbow and got nurse maids elbow January 7 2014 they popped it into place and it would be back to normal.

It got tight and she couldn't straighten it. They said it could take time. Well after many doctors and patience she still can't straighten it and it is now mid June.

She seems to have adjusted to it as is always walking with a bent arm. She shows no pain unless it is stretched or bent further. How can I help her??

This can't be normal. Please help.


Joshua Comments:

Hi Ashley.

How's the elbow now?

If it's still not straightening, then there's a few things at play or possibly at play.

In no particular order:

1. The joint itself is still swollen/inflammaed and not allowing movement.

2. Muscles are locked down tight to 'guard' and 'protect', and aren't lengthening. Thus, stopping movement.

3. When the joint was put back together, the bones aren't aligned correctly, and thus can't articulate correctly, thus stopping movement. This includes keeping inflammation and guarding and protecting in place.

1 can be dealt with slowly but easily.

2 can be dealt with, less easily but not technically hard.

Realistically, 1 and 2 go together to some degree.

3 requires a very skilled practitioner that knows what they're doing and can 'reset' the joint and then make sure its where it should be. Anybody can yank a bone back into place. But not everybody knows how to get it exactly where it needs to be.

And then you'll still have to deal with 1 and 2.

She's young, so hopefully 1 and 2 will go fast.

The thing to look out for is ligament damage. IF the elbow bones came out of joint more than a little, that means ligament got stretched.

2 year olds are still stretchy, so hopefully it's not a big problem. But it is worth it to make sure the bones are aligning in the joint as they should be.

Mar 10, 2015
Fell on extended elbow
by: Anonymous

A week ago I twisted my ankle and fell on my arm and hurt my elbow. The next day the area around my elbow was swollen and I put ice on it.

The swelling has gone down but I cannot extend my left arm all the way. Also when I raise it above my head and compare it with my right arm it seems curved.

I also cannot touch my left shoulder with my hand either. I can move my hand every other way but it will not fully extend.

Apr 11, 2015
Roller Skating is not my forte
by: AR

I went skating with a friend last night, and I am not very good at roller skating at all. However that meant that I was pretty good at gently falling and getting back up.

A referee at the skate rink showed ne how to properly skate and I was picking up speed and going a little bit faster than normal, I was also concentrated on skating and didn't notice I was falling. I did the cartoon character legs whip out from under me fall, and before I could stop myself landed on my right hip and my left fully extended arm. My hip and tailbone were fine after 20 minutes but after 13.5 hours my elbow is not. I remember putting weight on the arm straightened to get up, and I finished the lap I was doing and sat down. I didn't ice it at first, for some reason I had an instinctual reaction that that was a bad idea.

I researched broken arms and checked to make sure it wasn't broken, ruling that out quickly, before I noticed that I couldn't lean my head on my hand (elbow on table that is shorter than me, chin on flexed wrist) without immense pain. It seriously felt like the bones weren't in the right place to rotate properly. At this time I realized my arm wouldn't fully straighten. At first pain was centered more to the ulna and its connection to the elbow but it then spread to the radius too. I looked up symptoms of elbow dislocation and discovered that all my nerves and arteries were intact. There's no visible deformity or swelling and bruising. That night I had a friend's father, former paramedic, check it out and he assured me it was not dislocated, and it was likely ligament damage or strain, and to ice it. I have been icing it since.

I am ambidextrous, and play piano, and have only slightly more refined fine motor skills in my right hand/arm so I'm using it as a point of comparison. My right arm can extend from about -10* to 165* (hyper extended to almost flat) my left arm can go from about 30* to about 100* it is in constant pain, and shooting pain when I try to gently move it.

This goes from about 2 inches above the elbow to my wrist. And the area affected has been slowly decreasing. I took naproxen last night and immobilized it at 90* to sleep but it is still not capable of motion.

What's wrong and how long will it take to get better?


Joshua Comments:

Hi AR.

Basically, read through this thread and the links you'll find in it.

You may have actual damage, but most likely you just have a Bone Bruise.

Meaning, you landed on your extended arm, and the joint took the brunt of the force...meaning the bones of the joint smacked together, and now they're bruised.

There's more to it that that, of course, but that's the brunt of it.

Definitely start ice dipping as described in the How To Reduce Inflammation page.

Apr 15, 2015
basketball fall landed on arm can't open or close it now
by: Jumper

I was playing basketball and when I jumped to get the rebound my foot tangled with the other player and I fell straight on my side, I got back up and continued playing.

Although my arm hurt a bit it wasn't anything big but about 2 hrs later I couldn't open or close my arm, when I try straightening out or closing my arm I start getting pain in my inner fore arm.

Do I need to go to the doctor? or should I let time heal this?

We won the game by the way.


Joshua Comments:

Hi Jumper.

If it won't move because it's joint bruised and swollen, then there's nothign a doctor can provide.

If your cracked or broke something, then that's problematic.

If you have a slight hairline fracture, there's not much to do other than put it in a sling, and if it's bigger than that then PROBABLY you'd know it (broken/fractured bones generally HURT).

I can't tell from here of course, so it's your call.

How bad did you land on it?

How exactly did you land on it?

Does it hurt? If so, how bad, and what exactly does the pain feel like?

Is it swollen? How much?

Where exactly is it tender to the touch?

Sep 16, 2015
Elbow Pain
by: Jade


This morning I fell down 15 stairs on my butt hitting every step going down. I also, banged my elbows, they were bent. They have bruising and scratches.

The problem now is my right elbow, which already had a problem (tennis elbow) that was finally starting to feel better. Now I cannot bend my elbow all the way and cannot extend it all the way.

My fingers are fine and wrist is fine. The areas that hurt are the underside of my forearm (close to the bend in my arm), my bicep, my tricep (close to the elbow), and of course the lower part of the elbow. The upper bone still hurts when pushed on from the tennis elbow.

I have been icing all parts of the arm on and off, which seems to help a bit. Is there anything else that can be done?


Joshua Comments:

Just ice dip, that's good/enough.

If you want you can gently brush/rub the skin/arm from wrist to elbow, like pushing water up a hose, to push fluid and pain enhancing chemical out and get new blood/nutrition in.

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