The elbow joint is made up of the upper arm bone, or humerus, and the two bones of the forearm, the radius and ulna. A dislocation occurs when these bones become separated. An elbow may be partially dislocated or completely dislocated.
The elbow joint acts as both a hinge joint and a ball and socket joint. The hinge joint allows the arm to bend and flex, and the ball and socket allows the elbow to rotate inwards and outwards. The strong ligaments around this joint mean that the elbow is a very stable joint. Elbow dislocations are not very common and are usually quite painful when they do occur. Dislocation is often caused by a direct blow or a severe fall. Often one of the three arm bones is also broken. If a person has experienced an elbow dislocation, they are likely to experience further elbow instability. Some people experience elbow instability because they either have loose ligaments supporting the elbow, or their ulna bone has a shallow groove for which the ball of the upper arm sits into.
The symptoms of a complete elbow dislocation include:
- severe pain
- visual deformity of the arm
- swelling and bruising on the inside and outside of the elbow
A partial dislocation may be more difficult to identify. There will be pain and bruising, however the joint may not look dislocated in any way and movement of the joint may be relatively normal.
Treatment options for elbow dislocations depend on the severity of the injury. Immediate treatment involves management of pain and restoring the joint back into alignment. The joint is then kept supported and immobile for between one and three weeks. Physical therapy is required to ensure the elbow regains full movement.
For severe dislocations surgery may be required in order to realign the joint as well as repair any damaged or torn ligaments. If the dislocation has affected any blood vessels or nerves, or any bones have been broken, then these complications will also need to be surgically treated. Treatment of elbow instability includes tightening up or reconstructing loose ligaments with surgery, as well as physical therapy to strengthen the joint as much as possible.
Please contact Mr. Adam Durrants office for more information on elbow dislocation and instability or for additional resources on other elbow related injuries.