What is Elbow Dislocation?
The arm in the human body is made up of three bones that join to form a hinge joint called the elbow. The upper arm bone or humerus connects from the shoulder to the elbow to form the top of the hinge joint. The lower arm or forearm consists of two bones, the radius, and the ulna. These bones connect the wrist to the elbow forming the bottom portion of the hinge joint.
The bones are held together by ligaments to provide stability to the joint. Muscles and tendons move the bones around each other and help in performing various activities. Elbow dislocation occurs when the bones that make up the joint are forced out of alignment.
Causes of Elbow Dislocation
Elbow dislocations usually occur when you fall onto an outstretched hand. It can also occur from a traumatic injury such as a motor vehicle accident.
Symptoms of Elbow Dislocation
When the elbow is dislocated you may experience severe pain, swelling and lack the ability to bend your arm. Sometimes, you cannot feel your hand or may have no pulse in your wrist because arteries and nerves that run along your elbow may be injured.
Diagnosis of Elbow Dislocation
To diagnose elbow dislocation, your doctor will examine your arm. Your doctor will check the pulses at the wrist and evaluate the circulation to the arm. An X-ray is necessary to determine if there is a break in the bone. An arteriogram, an X-ray of your artery, can be helpful to determine if the artery is injured.
Treatment Options for Elbow Dislocation
An elbow dislocation is a serious injury and requires immediate medical attention.
Things You can do at Home when you have an Elbow Dislocation
At home, you may apply an ice pack to the elbow to ease pain and swelling. You can also check if the arteries and nerves are injured. You can feel your pulse by pressing the tips of your fingers at the base of your wrist. They should turn white or blanch and a pink color should come back in 3 seconds. To check for nerve injury, first, bend your wrist up and move your fingers apart and then touch your thumb to your little finger. You can also check for numbness all over your hand and arm. If you have a problem with any of these tests you need to see your doctor right away.
What your Doctor Does to Treat an Elbow Dislocation
Your doctor will put your dislocated elbow back in place by pulling down your wrist and levering your elbow. This procedure is known as a reduction. As it is a painful procedure you may be given medications to relieve your pain before the procedure. After the reduction, you may have to wear a splint to immobilize your arm at the elbow. After a few days, you may also need to perform gentle motion exercises to improve the range of motion and strength.