Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Elbow FAQ

Question:

I had a bad injury at work and smashed my elbow against a wood block. My hand and forearm are very weak and I have numbness in some of my fingers. The worker's comp doctor wants to just wait-and-see what happens. I'm worried that something more should be done. Should I get a second opinion on my own?

Answer:

Getting a second opinion is always an option though you may have to pay for the appointment yourself. The management of elbow injuries can be complicated. Your symptoms suggest at least one of the nerves may have been compressed. Weakness and numbness are symptoms of nerve involvement.

A wait-and-see approach is often best with mild nerve injuries. Testing nerve function too soon doesn't always give all the needed information. It takes time for the degree of nerve injury to show up.

Most mild nerve injuries heal by themselves in one to three weeks. A more moderate injury may take up to six or eight weeks. If the nerve is damaged beyond repair then surgery may be needed. Most patients have excellent results if the repair is done within 12 months of the injury.

If you know there are no fractures then you are probably safe waiting to see if the nerve will heal on its own. Full recovery takes about 18 months when the nerve has been cut through. It doesn't sound like you had this type of serious damage so a little wait-and-see time is appropriate.

Julie E. Adams, MD, and Scott P. Steinmann, MD. Nerve Injuries About the Elbow. In The Journal of Hand Surgery. February 2006. Vol. 31A. No. 2. Pp. 303-313.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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