Chiropractor Questions Elbow Injuries and Disorders

Experiencing numbness and pain after elbow fracture treatment. Why is this happening?

I am a 28-year-old man and I recently underwent an elbow fracture treatment following a major accident that I had. Post the surgery, I am experiencing a lot of pain along with sudden numbness in the affected area. What could be the reason behind this?

20 Answers

Physical therapy can help you greatly; electro-acuscope/myopulse treatments can be used to change the healing environment of the damaged joint. Specifically, your pain and numbness are most likely due to post-surgical swelling.
This sounds like a "botched" procedure to me. It has all the signs of an under-trained surgeon that reset the fracture in a bad position which led you to have your severe pain postoperative. It also sounds like the surgeon severed some superficial tributaries to a major nerve as well, most likely, the tributaries to your Ulnar nerve.

There are a lot of variables that can be involved. Please feel free to call 215-750-8006 to ask for Dr. Tucker to discuss further. Or email him at with some information such as who you are and your concern.
Dr. David Tucker
Ulnar nerve entrapment occurs when the ulnar nerve in the arm becomes compressed or irritated. The ulnar nerve is one of the three main nerves in your arm. It travels from your neck down into your hand, and can be constricted in several places along the way, such as beneath the collarbone or at the wrist.

The most common place for compression of the nerve is behind the inside part of the elbow. Ulnar nerve compression at the elbow is called "cubital tunnel syndrome." Numbness and tingling in the hand and fingers are common symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome. In most cases, symptoms can be managed with conservative treatments like changes in activities and bracing, acupuncture,and chiropractic care. If conservative methods do not improve your symptoms, or if the nerve compression is causing muscle weakness or damage in your hand, your doctor may recommend surgery.
Hi, sorry to hear that. If it is soon after the fracture, you have to be concerned about swelling and pressure on the nerve(s). If there was surgery, you have to worry about swelling, but also trauma to the nerve during surgery. Regardless, you don't want this to go on. Either go back to your doctor or get a second opinion.
Dr. Simone
To really give a good answer, I would need to know more about the fracture and what type of surgical procedure was preformed. The elbow is a complex joint involving three different bones. Which one(s) was fractured, in what way, and what was done to repair it? Also, the three main nerves that supply the arm and hand, all pass through the elbow at various locations. Generally, pain, numbness, and tingling sensations are all caused by some type of nerve irritation. It can happen at any point along the nerve, from the nerve ending (like when you get pricked or cut), to the nerve body (like if you have carpel tunnel impingement or hit your "funny bone"), to the nerve root (where the nerve exits the spine, this is what we call a radiculopathy). In any case, there are a number of factors that could be effecting your nerves and causing the pain and numbness you are experiencing. These include nerve compression or impingement (something pressing on the nerve), nerve irritation (inflammation or the affects of
the surgery), or even neuropathy (damage to the nerve itself). Most likely, the pain and numbness will subside in a few weeks or even months. Depending on the cause of the neuralgia (nerve pain), joint mobilization or soft tissue treatments could help to speed the processes along. If inflammation is the (or one of the) cause(s) of the symptoms, anti-inflammatory medication or treatments (including electronic muscle stimulation and therapeutic ultrasound) could also be useful. Doctors of chiropractic, like myself, treat these type of symptoms frequently. You should consult with the surgeon and your primary care doctor for suggestions and your fracture must have completely healed before attempting any other treatments or procedures.
It is not unusual to have some numbness or nerve involvement after an elbow surgery depending on severity or nerve involvement and or scar tissue. If it persists, you will need an EMG/NCV to determine the exact location and possible MRI. These tools allow you to treat the problem without guessing. Many people suggest just doing soft-tissue and or pain control, but without the "wiring" diagram treatment will be guessing.
Normally post surgery there is still a large amount of inflammation or swelling, which in turn applies pressure on the nerves and other structures that are in that area of the elbow. When the nerve is affected it can cause numbness, tingling, sharp, stabbing, throbbing and pressure like pain. Usually your surgeon will provide you with pain meds to deal with this part of recover. 4-6 wks from now your pain and numbness will feel better. You going to also need to go physical therapy to completely heal with a fully functional arm.
It sounds like ulnar neuropathy. Can you go back to your surgeon, or would you like a referral to an MD orthopedic surgeon? I recommend Dr. Henry Steine with Beacon, for elbow conditions.
Contact you surgeon, have PT recommendations been ordered.
Consult with the orthopedist who operated your elbow. It might be due to an irritation of nerve(s) near the area.
If it’s in just elbow area and forearm then a cutaneous nerve may have been damaged. If it goes to pinky and ring finger then ulnar nerve entrapment or damage. Peripheral nerves can heal but it’s a very slow process. Nothing to worry about but still need to get it checked to make sure in acute process isn’t occuring.
The best advice I can give is consult with your surgeon. He would have a much better understanding of your injury and procedures he did than I would.
You would need to have a detailed history and examination in order to find the cause of this. I would suggest setting up an appointment with a chiropractor or checking in with your primary care doctor to have a detailed examination to evaluate the proper approach for treatment.
Hi. You may be experiencing some swelling or building of scar tissue that is starting to “squeeze “ the part of the nerve that gives sensation to the area that you are experiencing the numbness. What treatment did you receive for your elbow? Is the sensation directly in the area or is it possible that due to your initial trauma, the nerve could be getting crushed some where else along the line, like the shoulder or neck. In order to reduce the pressure on the nerve currently, find a good doctor of chiropractic who does muscle work and collaborates with a physical therapist, and willing to collaborate with your Orthopaedic. I am partial to multiple specialties and multiple opinions working together on each patient because every expertise “brings something to the table”. This equals well rounded care for you. If you would like to supply me with more information on your issue, please contact my front desk. 973-744-9880
It sounds like a pinched nerve. It is best to talk to the surgeon who did the procedure and have an MRI performed.
There are nerves that go through the elbow down your arm. You want to make sure that there is no entrapment.
Thank you for the question. The reason can be from multiple sources. Surgery to the elbow can result in pain and numbness when the nerve are cut to gain access to the elbow or when there is a a large amount of inflammation causing the nerves to compress which leads to pain and numbness. The best course of action is communicate with your surgeon and ask them what they recommend as the best course of care. If there was a need to cut a nerve (or more) the positive news is that nerves in the periphery regrow themselves given time.
This could be damage to the radial or ulnar nerve (depending on where and what you fractured in your elbow) or it could be Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy or Sudeck's atrophy. Reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSDS), also known as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), is a disorder of the sympathetic nervous system that is characterized by chronic, severe pain. The sympathetic nervous system is that part of the autonomic nervous system that regulates involuntary functions of the body such as sweating and raising the hairs on the backs of your arms when you become frightened.
Please return to the doctor who treated your elbow and have an MRI done and possibly consult with a neurologist.
Scar tissue and nerve damage is quite likely the cause of the numbness. The pain should subside after about 6 weeks post surgery. If it doesn't, or it gets worse, ask for a follow-up appointment. A short course of pain meds 5 days should be about all most patients need and then some OTC meds for the remainder.