• Elbow dislocation


    Elbow dislocation is an injury to the elbow joint that causes displacement of the bones from their normal position. An elbow dislocation is usually an orthopedic emergency, because damage to nerves and blood vessels may occur and there are many potential significant risks and disabilities.

    Common signs and symptoms

    Notify a physician if you have any of the following:

    • Severe pain at the elbow at the time of injury
    • Loss of elbow function
    • Severe pain when attempting to move the elbow
    • Tenderness and obvious deformity, swelling, and bruising at the elbow
    • Numbness or paralysis in the forearm or hand below the dislocation from pinching, stretching or pressure on the blood vessels or nerves
    • Decreased or absent pulse at the wrist because of blood vessel damage


    After immediate reduction (repositioning of the bones of the joint) by trained medical personnel, treatment usually consists of ice and medications to relieve pain. Although reduction can be performed without surgery, surgery is occasionally necessary to restore the joint to its normal position, as well as to repair ligaments. Elevating the injured elbow at or above heart level helps in reducing swelling.

    Immobilization by splinting, casting, or bracing for 1 to 8 weeks may be recommended to protect the joint while the ligaments heal. After immobilization, stretching and strengthening of the stiff, injured, and weakened joint and surrounding muscles (due to the injury and the immobilization) are necessary. These may be done with or without the assistance of a physical therapist or athletic trainer. Surgery to repair or reconstruct elbow ligaments is occasionally necessary for recurrent dislocations (rare).

    More on elbow pain and problems