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Elbow Dislocation

An elbow dislocation occurs when the bones of the forearm (the radius and ulna) move out of place compared with the bone of the upper arm (the humerus). The elbow joint becomes dislocated, or out of joint.

Causes

The cause of most elbow dislocations is usually a fall or injury, most commonly with the arm all the way out.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs of an elbow dislocation are severe pain in the elbow, swelling, and inability to bend the arm. In some cases, a person may lose feeling in the hand.

Treatment

An elbow dislocation is a serious injury. Some dislocated elbows go back into place by themselves. Most, however, need a doctor to manipulate the bones back into their proper alignment. This procedure is called a reduction.

Medications: Anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) are used to reduce pain and inflammation. The max dose for ibuprofen is 800 mg three times per day. The max dose for naproxen is 500 mg twice daily. Prolonged usage should be avoided and these should be taken with food since they can affect the stomach lining. If one experiences an upset stomach these should be stopped.

Therapy:  If a reduction is necessary a splint or sling might be necessary for a few weeks after the joint is back in alignment. Physical therapy exercises might be necessary to improve the joint’s range of motion and strength.

Surgery:  Surgery might be necessary if any of the dislocated bones have also been broken, if torn ligaments need to be reattached or if damaged nerves or blood vessels need repair.