Elbow dislocation

Elbow dislocation is a common injury in children and adolescents. It usually occurs when a fall occurs on and outstretched arm resulting in the bones being knocked out of position.

Symptoms of Elbow dislocation

Immediately there will be pain and an inability to move the arm. There will also be an immediate onset of swelling.

Diagnosis and treatment

Initial management of Elbow dislocation involves reducing the dislocation i.e. putting the bones back into place. This will be done by a doctor. An x-ray will also be done to rule out the possibility of any fracture in the arm or forearm. In some cases if there is a fracture or a severe injury to the soft tissues (e.g. complete tear of a ligament) initial management will be surgery followed by physiotherapy to return the elbow to normal function.

If the elbow has been set into place and is stable and there are no other injuries to the elbow requiring medical management then physiotherapy will begin. Initial treatment would focus on reduction of any pain and swelling through the use of electrotherapeutic modalities, ice, gentle soft tissue therapy and rest from aggravating activities. You may also be required wear a protective brace or splint for a few weeks.

After a few weeks treatment will move to gradually acquiring full function of the elbow joint. This would involve techniques/exercise to gain full strength and range of motion of the elbow. It may take some time before full function of the elbow is reached. Your physiotherapist will also be involved in guiding you in a gradual return to sport/activity.