Xray after an Armbar elbow injury

X-Ray After a Painful Armbar?

After a painful armbar, you may be wondering if you should go in for an x-ray. A common injury after an armbar is a fracture or bony injury (alongside a few others, which we go over here). If that’s what’s causing the pain, typically an x-ray is the best next step in your rehab journey.

Please note: this post is meant to be educational & helpful, not meant to be taken as medical advice or a diagnostic. Please see a professional for a full diagnosis.

Armbars hyperextend the elbow joint, leading to a variety of structures getting over-stressed and leading to potential injuries. Because the elbow mechanically locks (i.e. bone on bone) there is a potential for a fracture or bony injury.

Digging into the Research

Breda et al. (2022) systematically reviewed all the research looking at clinical tests and their accuracy to rule in/out elbow fractures. (12 studies and 4,485 patients). They found that the elbow extension test had a specificity of over 90% and specificity of 48-69%. And the Elbow 4-Way Range of Movement Test had a sensitivity of up to 100% and a specificity of 88-97%.

With movement tests a high sensitivity and a high specificity is what we look for in regards to a good and reliable movement screen.

Elbow mobility tests appear to be useful, in case of a negative test, to rule out an elbow fracture.

With a high potential for bony injury after a bad armbar, making sure to clear fractures and other bony injuries is important. The most accurate way to rule out elbow fracture is an x-ray, however clinically the joint movement can help indicate if an x-ray is required.

At Grapplers Performance we work based off of the most current research. Everything we do is evidence-based. Want to stay in the loop with the most up to date and interesting research coming out about your body, the way it moves and injuries? Check out this free e-newsletter, Research Worth Reading, by @PhysicalTherapyResearch.

Source – Breda et al. 2022. Diagnostic accuracy of clinical tests to rule out elbow fracture: a systematic review. Clin Shoulder Elbow [Epub ahead of print]

Want more on Armbars? Be sure to check out our live workshop going more in depth about what to do after a painful armbar.


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