Emergency Department

202 S. Park St.
Madison, WI 53715

Current Estimated Wait:
UnityPoint Health - Madison

Elbow Strains

A strain is when a muscle becomes overstretched and tears. This painful injury, also called a "pulled muscle," can be caused by an accident, improper use of a muscle, or overuse of a muscle. Strains are of 3 types:

  • Mild (Grade I)-Slightly pulled muscle without tearing of muscle or tendon fibers. There is no loss of strength. 
  • Moderate (Grade II)- Tearing of fibers in a muscle, tendon or at the attachment to bone. Strength is diminished. 
  • Severe (Grade III)-Rupture of the muscle-tendon-bone attachment with separation of fibers. Severe strain requires surgical repair. Chronic strains are caused by overuse. Acute strains are caused by direct injury or overstress.


  • Excessive physical activity or effort 
  • Improperly warming up before a physical activity 
  • Poor flexibility 
  • Prolonged overuse of muscle-tendon units in the elbow 
  • Sudden, forceful hyperextension of the elbow 
  • Single violent injury or force applied to the elbow


  • Pain and difficulty moving the injured muscle 
  • Discolored and bruised skin 
  • Swelling 
  • Pain when moving or stretching the elbow. 
  • Muscle spasm in the elbow area. 
  • Swelling over the injury 
  • Loss of strength (moderate or severe strain)
  • Crepitation ("crackling") feeling and sound when the injured area is pressed with fingers
  • Calcification of muscles or tendons (visible with X-rays)
  • Inflammation of a tendon sheath