Physical Therapy for Dislocated Elbow
You don't realize how much you need your elbows in everyday life until you have an elbow injury.
Although you don’t hear about elbow dislocations as often as, say, shoulder dislocations, it doesn’t take much to dislocate your elbow under certain circumstances, like a car accident, sports accident, or hard fall.
When this happens, it's important to work with a certified physical therapist who understands that each injury is unique and every patient has their own path to recovery. The team at JAG PT includes licensed, experienced physical therapists who are knowledgeable and skilled in treating elbow dislocation and other types of soft tissue injury. They’ll work with you one-on-one to get you back to a more active lifestyle.
At JAG Physical Therapy, we fully understand how important healthy elbows are to your daily wellbeing, and our physical therapists, above all, are committed to helping you get back the life you love.
Elbow Dislocation Overview
An elbow dislocation happens when either or both of the forearm bones (the radius and ulna) are moved out of alignment with the upper arm bone (the humerus).
Any type of injury to a hinge joint can limit your ability to go about your daily routine, and pain from an injured elbow can be especially limiting in the completion of common tasks like getting dressed, driving, typing, and carrying objects.
Elbow dislocations can occur in several ways, including:
- Falling on an outstretched arm or hand
- Getting into a car accident
- Other jarring impacts to the arm (often sports-related)
Anatomy of the Elbow
The elbow is a complex joint, formed by three bones that meet together. These bones – the humerus, radius, and ulna – form at the hinged joint, the elbow.
There are also some important ligaments that make up the elbow. These are the medial collateral ligament (at the inside portion of the elbow) and the lateral collateral ligament (at the outside portion of the elbow).
When the elbow is dislocated, these ligaments can become irritated and inflamed. But these ligaments create a source of stability for the elbow, holding together the humerus and the ulna, and it’s important to take care of them properly while recovering from an elbow injury.
Complex Elbow Dislocations
Complex elbow dislocation involves a fracture in one of the bones adjacent to the elbow, and in these cases, it's extremely important to seek care right away, before the area becomes irritated.
If you believe you have a complex elbow dislocation, see a physician or orthopedist as soon as you can. A JAG PT physical therapist can then design a step-by-step recovery plan to help you through the healing process.
Symptoms of a Dislocated Elbow
If you're dealing with an injury to the elbow, you're probably already experiencing certain symptoms, such as:
- Elbow pain
- Inability to bend your arm properly
- A joint that's visibly out of alignment
Additional complications with elbow conditions rarely occur. However, in a few instances, a dislocated elbow can increase the risk for:
- Pinched nerves
- Trapped arteries
Risk Factors for Elbow Dislocation
Certain situations and conditions can make you more at risk for an elbow dislocation, including:
- Level of involvement in sports-related activities
- Involvement in intense exercise programs
The pain caused by elbow dislocation is usually great enough to seek medical attention right away, and urgent care and emergency room visits are common when an elbow becomes dislocated. On rare occasions, a patient may require surgery, especially if the elbow joint or any of the bones are fractured, the blood vessels are damaged, or there are torn ligaments. Following your visit to a medical doctor, JAG Physical Therapy can work with you along the road to recovery.
Beginning the Elbow Dislocation Recovery Process
For most elbow dislocations, you can likely begin physical therapy right away. But if you have a complete dislocation, fracture, or a torn ligament injury, it’s best to see a physician or orthopaedist as your first step toward recovery.
As part of your treatment plan, a doctor will thoroughly examine the joint to assess your condition, checking if the hand or arm feels numb or cold. This exam will indicate any fracture that exists in your arm, or an X-ray or magnetic resonance image of the elbow may be used to rule out a fracture. Then the doctor will perform a procedure called a reduction to move the bones back into proper alignment.
At this point, your doctor may refer you to physical therapy for your ongoing recovery.
Personalized Elbow Dislocation Treatment with JAG Physical Therapy
The sooner you begin physical therapy for your dislocated elbow, the less likely you are to experience additional complications, and the sooner we can get you back to your normal activities.
Your JAG PT physical therapist will begin with a physical examination to check your elbow’s range of motion. Then they’ll prescribe a physical therapy exercise program, including strengthening exercises and range-of-motion exercises, which will help you heal the muscles surrounding your elbow and prevent you from developing a stiff arm. These exercises may involve:
- Elbow flexion and extension
- Grip exercises
- Biceps curls
- Forearm rotations
- Triceps extensions
In addition, your physical therapist will provide you with information for a home exercise program to help you continually maintain your progress. Medication is often given to reduce pain and relax the muscles. Once the joint is back into alignment, you may have to wear a splint for 2-3 weeks.
Physical therapy could be prescribed as an additional treatment once the joints are properly aligned. This is an excellent non-surgical treatment to assist with the complete healing of a dislocated elbow.
Contact JAG PT Today to Treat Your Elbow Injury
Our team of physical therapists at JAG Physical Therapy is highly skilled in treating elbow injuries. Our physical therapy program is designed to treat dislocated elbows and improve range of motion as safely and effectively as possible.
Our caring and supportive physical therapists will take every measure to ensure your comfort and success. We want you to make a full recovery as soon as possible.
Find one of our over 100 New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania JAG Physical Therapy locations near you today, or contact us for more information. We know how important it is to enjoy the activities that make you who you are, and we’re dedicated to helping you get back the life you love.