Elbow Joint Dislocation


An elbow joint dislocation occurs whenever the joint surfaces separate generally due to a fall on an outstretched arm or an accident. A person may try to break their fall by sticking out their hand, however, much of the force is sent to the elbow. Due to the force in the elbow, our bodies typically rotate which can move the elbow out of the socket. Some of these elbow dislocations occur in car accidents when someone reaches forward to brace for the impact. There are two types of dislocations partial and complete. Just as the names may suggest, a partial dislocation is when the joint surfaces partly separate in your elbow, and a complete dislocation is when they completely separate.

There are three types of dislocations:
  • Simple dislocation doesn’t have an injury to any of the bones.
  • You can have a severe bone and ligament injury with a complex dislocation.
  • Finally, in a severe dislocation, the severely injured blood vessels and nerves increase the risk of losing your arm. You might feel pain or bruise on either side of your elbow where your ligaments are stretched or torn.

When you come into the office to be evaluated we will look for several things. The first is good circulation to the arm. The second is a pulse in the wrist. Finally, we will look for warmth to the hand which indicates the artery wasn’t injured at the time of dislocation. Then depending on your injury, we may suggest a nonsurgical or surgical option to correct your injury.

Nonsurgical Treatment Options

The nonsurgical treatment option is a reduction maneuver. This treatment begins with the administration of pain medication and sedatives. Then the realignment of the elbow occurs slowly and gently. You will be required to wear a splint for one to three weeks. This will keep your arm immobile. Finally, you will begin physical therapy exercises to regain full range of motion.