Elbow Dislocation Physical Therapy

Georgia Hand, Shoulder, and Elbow

We generally tend to associate dislocations with a shoulder, a finger, or a knee. However, elbow dislocations are quite common as well. Perhaps you have recently dislocated your elbow and would like to get on the road to recovery.
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Our specialists at Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow can help get you on the right track. With offices located in Atlanta and Marietta, Georgia, our expert team is available to aid in your recovery. Be sure to contact us today. 

We realize that you may have some pending questions regarding elbow dislocation. In order to assist you, we have answered some of the most frequently asked questions below.

What Is Elbow Dislocation?

Elbow dislocation is when the bones that make up your elbow joint are forced or jolted out of alignment. Generally, this is the result of landing from a fall on your outstretched arm. Elbow dislocations are usually very painful and need to be treated by a specialist as soon as possible.

What Are the Types of Elbow Dislocations?

There are three types of elbow dislocations, and they are based on the severity of the damage. The three types are as follows:

  1. Simple elbow dislocations occur when soft tissues and ligaments are torn, resulting in an elbow dislocation. In these cases, there are no injuries to your bones.
  2. Complex elbow dislocations produce injuries to both the ligaments and bones. A bone has been fractured in this situation.
  3. Elbow dislocations with vascular or nerve damage not only damage the bones and ligaments but also can cause damage to the nerves and/or blood vessels around the elbow.

 

Symptoms of Elbow Dislocation

Some of the symptoms of elbow dislocation include:

  • Extreme pain (that may not be noticed initially due to high adrenaline levels)
  • Tingling or numbing sensations
  • No pulse in your wrist
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Lack of ability to bend your elbow
  • Weakness in your elbow joint
  • Deformity at the elbow

 

While the evidence of elbow dislocation can be very apparent, sometimes due to large amounts of swelling, you may not be able to accurately recognize the symptoms. Seeing a specialist will help you make the proper diagnosis with clinical examination and specialized imaging.

What Causes Elbow Dislocation?

Falling with your arm outstretched is one of the most common causes of elbow dislocations. Stretching your arms out in front of you as you fall is a natural reflex. However, the force can cause your bone to pop out of alignment in your elbow joint.

Elbow dislocations have a high occurrence rate among young adults and teenagers while playing high-impact sports such as hockey or football. It can also occur while ice skating, skateboarding, practicing gymnastics, or engaging in a host of other sports.

Traumatic injuries such as car accidents are another cause. To brace for impact in an attempt to protect ourselves, we naturally and instinctively extend our arms out. The force from the impact can pop our elbow out of its natural position, causing an elbow dislocation.

Overusing your elbow while taking care of everyday activities can cause your elbow to pop out of place. Sometimes this will happen if the load you carry is too heavy.

Treatment for Elbow Dislocation

There are different ways to treat a dislocated elbow. It all depends on the severity of your injury. Some treatment options include:

  • Manipulation (also known as closed joint reduction) is when your doctor repositions your elbow back into its proper place.
  • Surgery may be required for severe cases where your elbow dislocation involves a broken bone, or damage to the ligaments, nerves, or blood supply.

 

Whether your elbow is treated with manipulation or surgery, physical therapy will be a requirement to help you regain your range of motion.

How Can a Physical Therapist Help Treat Elbow Dislocation?

A physical therapist can help treat your elbow dislocation in several ways. Your physical therapist can help relieve the pain you feel in your elbow joint and restore your range of motion and strength.

During a therapy session, you will be given gentle exercises to do even while your arm is still in a sling. This will prove to be worthwhile because if your arm is immobilized for an extended amount of time, you may have difficulty regaining your range of motion.

Once your sling is removed after manipulation or you have healed enough after surgery, your therapist will provide you with a series of specific stretches and exercises to help you achieve your goal of regaining your strength and your range of motion. 

If you are an athlete, your therapist can also specifically tailor your exercises and stretches to help you return to the game that you love.

Our elbow dislocation specialists at Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow can help you find relief. Schedule an appointment at our Atlanta or Marietta, GA offices today!

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Randall Alexander, MD