Elbow dislocation is a condition where bones forming the forearm i.e. the radius and ulna, get displaced and are not in alignment with the humerus. Elbow dislocations are the most common dislocations after shoulder dislocations. Extreme force is required to dislocate the elbow joint as it is a very stable joint. Posterior elbow dislocations account for 90% of elbow dislocations. It can be either partial (subluxation) or complete dislocation. In partial dislocation, there is a small gap in the joint surfaces and this gap usually reduces by itself or with little help. In complete dislocation, there is considerable gap between the joint surfaces. They require manual reduction or surgical reduction.
Elbow dislocations may also cause damage to the surrounding structures, commonly the elbow joint ligaments. There may be fracture to the radius or ulna. There may be damage to the nerves or blood vessels passing nearby to the elbow joint.
Symptoms of Elbow Dislocation or Dislocated Elbow
- Severe pain.
- Deformity of the elbow joint.
- Bruising is present.
- Swelling is present.
- Warmth may be present.
- Inability to move the elbow.
- A cold or pale skin indicates nerve or blood vessel damage. Immediate attention is required in this case.
- There may be a loss of wrist pulse in some patients.
Causes of Elbow Dislocation or Dislocated Elbow
- Falling with the arm outstretched.
- Trauma or force to the elbow.
- Sudden twisting force to the elbow.
Treatment for Elbow Dislocation or Dislocated Elbow
- Patient should visit a doctor immediately.
- Ice or cold therapy application to the elbow.
- Elbow should be put in a sling for support.
- Never try to reduce the joint yourself.
- Manual reduction is required in a complete dislocation.
- Pain killers are given to reduce pain before manual reduction is done, as it is very painful.
- The elbow is placed in a sling for 1 to 3 weeks depending on the severity of the dislocation.
- Patient should enroll in a rehabilitation program after complete healing to regain strength and range of motion of the elbow.
- Strengthening exercises should be started after healing.
- The elbow can be taped for support after returning to sports.
- Athlete should return to training gradually.
Elbow Dislocation Recovery Time and Exercises
Elbow Dislocation is a condition, in which the bones of the elbow move out of their position due to an injury usually during a sporting activity or a fall on the elbow. Sometimes due to the stress of the elbow dislocation there may also be incidences of fractures. Now coming to recovery from elbow dislocations, it normally requires casting for about three to four weeks and then an exercise regimen to strengthen the elbow and improve the flexibility of the elbow. Normally it takes about 10 weeks for the elbow to completely heal after an elbow dislocation. Some of the exercises done after an elbow dislocation are:
Range of Motion Exercises: The elbow joint is an important joint, which facilitates movement of the arm. Due to elbow dislocation, the range of motion of the entire arm gets affected and the arm can become stiff and rigid hence it is extremely important to increase and maintain range of motion of the elbow after dislocation for complete healing from the injury. The best way to improve and increase range of motion of the elbow following elbow dislocation is by practicing the following exercises:
Elbow Extension: Place your elbow on the edge of a table. Straighten the injured elbow using the other hand as much as possible without increasing pain feeling no more than a moderate stretch. Do this exercise about 20 times without increasing the pain.
Elbow Flexion: To do this exercise, place the elbow on a table. Bend the injured elbow using the other hand as much as possible without any increase in pain and feeling no more than a moderate stretch. Do this exercise about 20 times provided there is no increase in pain.
Elbow Strengthening: Once the range of motion of the elbow comes back then the next thing to do is strengthening the elbows so as to prevent recurrent dislocations. To increase elbow strength resistance with normal movements of the elbow joint can be done. The resistance can be variable from weights or using any household item, which is somewhat heavy. Hold this weight in your injured arm and bring it close to the chest. This motion strengthens the elbow joint muscles and increases the strength of the biceps and triceps.
Elbow Stretching: It is also important to keep the muscles of the elbow loose and nimble so as to function normally so that the elbow is healed quickly and it even prevents future dislocation of the elbows. To do an elbow stretch, you need to stand and raise the injured arm straight in front of the body with the fingers stretched. With the opposite hand, hold the wrist of the injured arm and push the injured hand down thus flexing the wrist. Maintain this position for about 5 seconds before releasing it slowly. This can be done numerous times throughout the day and is very easy to do.