Although there are many different causes of arm pain after a car accident, the actual mechanism of injury is often similar whether it’s upper arm pain, forearm pain, or elbow pain. One mechanism of injury is direct trauma to the arm or elbow, which happens when the impact from the crash causes the arm, forearm, or elbow to hit something inside of the car. Common impact points include the windshield, steering wheel, airbag, dashboard, inside door, side window, seat, or other parts of the inside of the car.
The arm is made up of three main bones. The humerus is the long bone of the upper arm. The forearm is made up of two bones called the ulna and the radius. The upper arm bone (humerus) connects to the forearm bones (ulna and radius) at the elbow joint.
The bones of the elbow joint are held together by ligaments. The ulnar collateral ligament, the radial collateral ligament, and the annular ligament. These ligaments work together to create the movement of the elbow joint.
Common upper arm injuries include:
Brachial Plexus Injury: The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves that run through the should and split off to the arm, wrist, and hand. When the brachial plexus overstretches in a car accident, the nerve pain it causes runs down the arm.
Broken Arm: A broken arm is a general term that includes a fracture of any bone in the arm. The name given to the broken arm will depend on the specific bone in the arm that is broken.
Humerus Fracture: A broken arm that involves the humerus bone is called a humerus fracture. It is a difficult bone to break, though the extreme forces of a car accident can easily do so. If the broken bone stays in place, simple casting may be enough to heal this injury. If the bones fragment or move out of place, surgery may be required.
Distal Humerus Fracture: When a humerus fracture occurs near the elbow, it is often called a distal humerus fracture.
Radius Fracture: The radius is one of the two long bones of the forearm that allows this part of your arm to twist. A broken arm that involves the bone often happens because the arm is extended outward at the time of impact. Treatment for a radius fracture includes simple casting for nondisplaced fractures and surgery to reduce displaced fractures and large bone fragments.
Ulna fracture: An ulna fracture often happens at the same time as a radial fracture, with a treatment of wearing a cast or surgical correction.
The ends of the bones that make up the humerus, radius, and ulna that create the elbow joint have their own names. Each of these specialized bone parts can be fractured.
Olecranon Fracture: The olecranon is the tip of the ulna that makes the point at the tip of the elbow. This bone can easily be dislocated or cracked on impact.
Condylar Fracture: This .happens when the elbow joint fractures at the humerus. Depending on the part of the joint surface involved, it may be called a lateral condyle fracture, a supracondylar fracture, or medial condylar fracture.
Elbow Ligament Damage: Any ligament that holds the elbow joint together can be damaged in a car accident.
Dislocated Elbow: When the forces of the elbow are very extreme, the ligaments can stretch so much that the bones of the forearm no longer line up with the humerus bone of the upper arm. This is commonly referred to as a dislocated elbow.
Hand Fractures: Car accident can lead to broken hands. A “boxer’s fracture” is a common hand fracture where there is a breakthrough the bones of the hand. Treatment for hand fractures includes immobilization, physical therapy and/or surgery.
Ligament Injuries to the Hand: Ligaments are tissues that stabilize joints. Sprains or tears to ligaments are common after motor vehicle accidents. When an accident victim jams their hand into the steering wheel or dashboard, ligaments can be torn.
Joint Dislocation: The middle knuckle of the finger, also known as the proximal IP joint (PIP joint) is the most likely joint to be dislocated. Treatment for a dislocated joint can include “re-setting” which requires manipulation to get the joint back to its original position.
Injuries to Tendons: Tendon tears result from lacerations or crush type injuries. Tendon tears often require surgery followed by physical therapy.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: If a person has a firm grip on the steering wheel when the impact occurs, the nerves in the hand or the wrist can be damaged. Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome may show up days or weeks after the accident. One of the main symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome is numbness in the hands that worsens at night. Other symptoms include:
Burning or tingling or swelling
Pain in hands or fingers
Lack of grip strength
You need your arms and hands for all your daily tasks, that’s why it is important they are functioning at an optimal level.Our doctors at auto injury pain clinic can find the source of pain and perform effective chiropractic treatments to help reduce all types of shoulder, elbow and hand pain.