Elbow Dislocation

Elbow dislocation involves the joint shifting out of position at the intersection of the humerus, radius and the ulna. The forearm moves abnormally away from the bones of the upper arm at this point due to a falling accident or other elbow trauma. Dislocation often occurs in isolation but is occasionally associated with more serious conditions such as fractures and artery or nerve injuries.

Symptoms of Elbow Dislocation

Sharp pain in and around the elbow, which is regularly accompanied by inflammation or reddening. Motion can be severely restricted, especially when attempting to bend the arm. Depending on the damage to other components of your arm like nerves and arteries, you might experience other symptoms such as numbness in the hand or the inability to feel a pulse in your wrist.

Causes of Elbow Dislocation

A vast majority of elbow dislocations are caused by a fall. These accidents can occur in numerous sports activities, particularly those involving either heights, such as horse riding or cycling, or high speeds with a likelihood of collisions, such as rugby and many other contact sports. The elbow is most commonly dislocated by such a fall when the arm is fully outstretched, though falling directly on the elbow is another possibility. Outside of sports the injury can be caused by almost any traumatic accident (e.g. car crashes).

Medical Treatment for Elbow Dislocation

It is crucial to quickly seek medical attention, either in the form of your doctor or an emergency room, when encountering any combination of the above symptoms. In the meantime you can apply ice to the area to temporarily relieve symptoms. The doctor will be able to use physical tests to evaluate the severity of the dislocation and how badly it may have affected nerves or arteries. They will examine strength and any numbness.

In terms of correcting the dislocation, the doctor will perform a reduction to manually direct the elbow into position. This procedure can be intensely painful, so they will be able supply appropriate medication for pain reduction beforehand. From this point, an L-shaped splint (often made from plaster) is used to keep the elbow bent and avoid damaging movement while it recovers. A sling will usually support your bent arm.

If other injuries have arisen in conjunction with the dislocation, they will be treated as necessary. See our article for information on elbow fractures.

Prevention of Elbow Dislocation

Protect your arms and elbows with suitable protective clothing or elbow pads whenever possible. When falling during sport, it can be beneficial not to land on an outstretched arm even though this can be a natural response. This can serve to prevent many potential arm injuries. Check your footwear and the ground or playing surface before any activity to try and limit the possibility of falling.

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