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Can the "elbow bump" greeting cause injury?
We might as well get used to it - the "elbow bump" greeting is here to stay for awhile. Even with the encouraging news of an effective vaccine on the horizon, the best estimates for distribution are still months away. Until then, if you are not maintaining social distancing, your safest form of greeting new acquaintances, colleagues, and others you encounter in social settings, is to use the "elbow bump."

Adopted to reduce the risk of contagion prevalent through the ubiquitous handshake, the elbow bump minimizes physical contact. Its appearance is not unique to the current pandemic though. It surfaced during the 2006 avian flu outbreak, the 2009 swine flu pandemic, the 2012-2013 seasonal flu epidemic, and the 2014 Ebola outbreak. The word "elbow bump" was considered for the 2006 Word of the Year by the New Oxford Dictionary! Art Director Stephen Paul Wright even created an elbow bump emoji (above, right), which you can download here.

Like handshakes, fist bumps, and even hugs, you may find yourself on the receiving end of an over-enthusiastic elbow bump. Can you actually suffer an injury greeting someone with an elbow bump? An acute elbow injury may be caused by a direct blow or by twisting, jerking, jamming, or bending an elbow abnormally. Pain may be sudden and severe. Bruising and swelling may develop soon after the injury. Acute injuries include:
  • Bruises from a tear or rupture of small blood vessels under the skin. 
  • Injuries to ligaments, the ropy fibers that connect bones to bones around joints.
  • Injuries to tendons that connect muscles to bones.
  • Injuries to joints (sprains) that stretch or tear the ligaments.
  • Pulled muscles (strains) caused by overstretching muscles.
  • Muscle tears or ruptures, such as your biceps or triceps in your upper arm.
  • Broken bones (fractures) of the upper arm bone (humerus) or the forearm bones (ulna or radius) at the elbow joint.
  • Dislocations of the elbow joint (out of its normal position).

If you experience a sudden, tingling shard of pain through your arm, it is most likely because of the sudden compression of your ulnar nerve against the hard surface of your humerus. In other words, you've hit your "funny bone," although there's nothing humorous about it at the moment. If the pain persists, you may actually be suffering from cubital tunnel syndrome.

Cubital tunnel syndrome occurs when the ulnar nerve is persistently compressed or restricted, whether from repetitive motion or from being kept in an unnatural position, such as during sleep. In such situations, the pain can be chronic and the sufferer can be miserable.

So, while elbow bump greeting injuries have not made headlines, it is possible to bump a little too hard, or just at the "right" spot to compress the ulnar nerve. We encourage you to bump softly and be sure to call us if you experience any elbow pain.
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1879 Veterans Park Drive, Suite 1101,
Naples, FL 34109
239.592.4955