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Dislocated Elbow

john_smithjohn_smith Posts: 85
Unfortunately on the weekend while back in north visiting parents I took a fall where I went over handlebars and dropped from a medium height (5-6 ft) and put my right hand out for impact. As it touched the ground instant crunch sound and pain so knew it was serious. Was taken to A+E, after x ray they found it was dislocated elbow. They manipulated it back in and obviously now i'm left with arm in agony, bruising, swelling and very limited movement/flexibility (prob about 20degrees and no sideways twist/rotation available yet). i can barely hold arm up by itself and have to hold with left arm or put the sling on to support.
Help/advice is requested. anyone done something similar, any recommendations on how to get on mend asap, recommended exercises as more movement becomes available, time spans, any long term problems, will i make full recovery, how long should leave it before cycling again, recommended physios in central or east london area etc.
mid twenties, male, no other previous injuries of similar nature if helps.
many thanks


  • CraigXXLCraigXXL Posts: 1,852
    Not dislocated my elbows but did rip my shoulder out of its socket in a motorbike accident.

    Your physio should have gone through some exercise with you but if not you should try to small gently movements and build them up. With it being the elbow try rotating the wrist as this acts on the muscles and tendons around the elbow. Then move onto actual direct movements on the elbow again slow and easy to begin with. The idea is to limit the amount of stiff scar tissue developing by exercising.

    It took me around 2 months to get pain free movement and about 5 months for the strength. Unfortunately I never regained full strength in the that shoulder and if I put any large stresses i.e. press ups, it clicks louder than a Hope hub.

    Good luck with the recovery.
  • LunaeventerLunaeventer Posts: 420
    Do not force your elbow straight - if you force it calcification of biceps tendon can occur.... not good!

    Go to physio & follow their advice!
  • NikBNikB Posts: 243
    Elbow luxation is not a common condition but has potential long term consequences. Some cases are treated medically and some are treated surgically. Statistically the surgical cases don't do significantly better than the more conservative approach. It is likely that you will have ruptured either the medial or lateral collateral ligaments which provide support to the elbow. These take a long time to heal - potentially 6 months depending on the damage.

    As you were treated quickly you should do fairly well as degenerative changes would not have had time to set in. However it is possible that you will never regain a full range of motion of the joint.

    Initial rest and then lots and lots of physio will get you right but you must stick to what the physios tell you. I would also strongly recommend going private if you can because physio on the nhs is not great in my experience (I've had a lot of both).
  • OwenCBOwenCB Posts: 125
    I've done it in both of my elbows unfortunately and managed to break some particles of bone loose at the same time, so I needed surgery to remove those which had to be done at seperate times :cry: . It took me about six months each time to get back to rugby (which was how I did it in the first place) but I was told to build up my triceps using dips and over head dumbell extensions.

    It's never happened again (yet) so I must be doing something right, but amazingly I've not got arthritis in my left elbow, which my GP claims is down to the trauma of the operation.

    Good luck on the recovery though mate, hope you're back riding soon
  • NikBNikB Posts: 243
    Your GP is saying the trauma of the operation has prevented arthritis? Or am I reading that wrong?
  • Thanks to all for replies and info.
    Hi Owen, nice (well maybe not nice for you) to hear someone else has done something similar, i've also lost small bit of bone from side. 2 dislocations in one go must be a night mare to deal with. I know you mentioned it took 6 months to get back to rugby but did you do any other sports in that time. i.e. could you get back cylcing, running, swimming or anything like that a bit earlier. Other problem I have been warned about it not getting the straightness back in my arm again. Doctors estimate it will always be between 5-20 degrees bent. Have you experienced something similar and have you any instability/weakness problems?
  • OwenCBOwenCB Posts: 125
    john_smith wrote:
    Thanks to all for replies and info.
    Hi Owen, nice (well maybe not nice for you) to hear someone else has done something similar, i've also lost small bit of bone from side. 2 dislocations in one go must be a night mare to deal with. I know you mentioned it took 6 months to get back to rugby but did you do any other sports in that time. i.e. could you get back cylcing, running, swimming or anything like that a bit earlier. Other problem I have been warned about it not getting the straightness back in my arm again. Doctors estimate it will always be between 5-20 degrees bent. Have you experienced something similar and have you any instability/weakness problems?

    I can't straighten my arms fully no, and to be honest I didn't try any other sports in that time as I was only ever into rugby at that moment. Now I've no problems other than arthritis (mentioned earlier caused by and not prevented by the operation), in fact my arms are a lot stronger, I lost bone around the edges of the joints and was told that I'd likely be more prone to further dislocations, but I got some tight fitting elbow supports, found the gym and I've had no further problems, like I said I was told working up my triceps would help and i can only say it must have worked, dips, dips and more dips!!!
  • largephillargephil Posts: 358
    Hi all,

    Had the misfortune of dislocating my elbow 2 hours into a 5 day tour of the 7 Stanes last Thursday. Have since found out that I'm probably not going to be riding this summer...Gutted is the understatement of the year!

    Anyhow, the doctor that saw me was an idiot, he didnt believe me that I put the joint back my self, in fact he didnt even believe it was dislocated. Told me to take pain killers and it will be fine in a few days.

    Now I know it will take a few months but would like advice from anyone unlucky enough to be experienced in elbow dislocation recovery. Should I be wearing a sling? Should I be moving my arm about to help mobility later? Should I have a compression support bandage on the joint. Any advice would be gratefully appreciated as I dont trust NHS doctors who say it will be ok in a few days!
  • john_smithjohn_smith Posts: 85
    Getting the e-mail notification about this thread brought back a whole load of bad memories, I still remember clearly to this day how mine went and crunch/snapping noise and pain that came with it. The biggest skill you will pick up very quickly is doing shirt buttons up, washing hair, eating your dinner, tieing shoe laces etc all with one arm/hand. Positive news for you is that it does get better and touch wood I haven't had any noticeable side affects or long lasting problems.
    I recommend getting an x-ray done asap on the joint as its worth checking if any bone has broken off and how much. I had a small chip taken off the the cup that holds bone and one of the consultants I saw said if it had been early on i.e. happened couple days from when I was seeing him that he would do surgery to get that bone out to avoid any risk of it getting into joint later in life. However as consultant visit was couple weeks later and in repair he said don't bother surgery as would cause more trauma in the area and hopefully it would just rest on the side somewhere out of way.
    I was warned by couple consultants I would never get the arm straight again or have full range movement to touch my shoulder. However I seemed to get full range movement back. Physio thinks it might have been because my elbows as normal (judged by the non dislocated one) seemed to have slight bit hyperflexion (i.e. bends maybe 5 degrees further away than a fully straight elbow).
    Some recovery suggestions.
    Need to avoid any knocks or twists for first couple weeks so wear the sling when out about. Take it off as soon as you think possible to hold weight of arm yourself as building the muscle up again in bicep/tricep seems to be important. I spent too long with the sling on and think could have got movement back earlier if was starting to hold arm and move it around a little bit earlier.
    Visit the physio. I was given various elastic resistance bands with some different exercises/movements they suggested to help get the movement back into joint. I was lazy on this front and forgot to do a lot of these but in hindsight think it would have helped.
    I got on my road bike 5-6 weeks after the initial dislocation. Prob earlier than I should have as still could not get arm anywhere near straight and was struggling to reach handlebars properly with my right arm. But I hoenstly think this helped as the stretching to reach bars and putting some body weight on arm/handlebar for pro longed period time during a cycle sportive seemed to help get it straight quite quick after this. I can't remember exact time scale but I think it was almost completely straight again i.e. 5 degrees off straight about 3-4 weeks after initially getting back on bike for first time.
    After this I started to get on rowing machine. Not sure if this was good or bad for it as would always leave elbow quite sore after. I use to be a rower at uni so think you should only do if got reasonably good technique. But I think the rowing motion of arms fully straight (or as straight as can be with dislocated elbow) and taking the weight up in fly wheel at the catch while driving with only the legs was helping to bring arm back from 5 degrees bend to fully straight. Also the finish of the stroke where you pull handle towards your chest with your arms and albows coming back behind the body was helping build up the biceps/triceps and also helped to get the range of movement back in arm so that I would touch my shoulder again quite quickly.
    What happened for me though is straightness and movement came back well and quickly to allow me to ride again but it still felt quite weak even 9 months later especially when twisting it. i.e. make a fist and twist it as far to one side or other it just didn't feel stable. I then took up swimming (front crawl) and that did wanders for the arm. Yeah bit of pain initially but within 2-3 sessions and about 2 weeks later I could really feel a big improvement and just felt more stable. I wish I had a go swimming much earlier i.e. 6-8 weeks after as think that could be one of best things you can do.
    Physio elastic bands are probably similar to swimming resistance so don't be lazy like me and do the exercises you are told religiously if you want to be back.
    Probably biggest problem for me left is just mental side now. I still go out mountain biking but I'm more careful on decents where think risk going over handlebars stuck in spd's as think it would be lot worse if did the same accident for a 2nd time. However have had several falls since and luckily walked away from them all without re damaging it.
    Be interested to hear back from you on how recovery goes and if any of this was helpful. Best of luck and if want any further details/chat let me know.
  • I did mine just over 4 weeks ago. I slipped on muddy track whilst out walking. Was laid in the muddy track for over an hour waiting for ambulance. Partner was running up and down track to get mobile signal and connect to "what three words". I needed ambulance as I couldn't get up due to mud and pain and she couldn't lift me. Being a first aider she knew to leave me and not add to my pain.
    Ambulance crew had to get me to my feet as they couldn't get stretcher down side of ambulance.
    I have full rotation and can touch my shoulder but cannot straighten it fully. About 10 degrees off straight.
    I'm back for further check up and x-ray next Monday.
    Want to know when I can drive and get back on bike. I have road and MTB (which I ride when out with granddaughter.
    At 63 I feel recovery could be slower than younger person. I don't want to play rugby but need to drive to get back to work and be able to carry shopping.
    Anyone know how long someone my age may have to recuperate?
    I assume you understand that we have options on your time,
    And will ditch you in the harbour if we must.
  • steve_sordysteve_sordy Posts: 2,382
    Hi @guitarpete247 Are you aware that you responded to a post more than 10 years old? Never mind, we've all done it.

    I have never had the misfortune to dislocate an elbow (it makes me wince just thinking about it!), but I have had problems with both shoulders, both knees, both feet, and my neck. This has taught me to avoid the NHS route and its minimum 6 week wait for an appointment. It used to be 6 weeks, heaven knows what it is now! It has also taught me that the sooner you get to see a physio and start treatment and an exercise program, the better. I have most often been fully cured or at least mainly cured by the time 6 weeks is up.

    My wife broke her wrist and had metal supports inserted to support the bones. Based upon my experience I took her to see the physio the week she had the splint removed and she started treatment straight away. She also agreed a date with the NHS physio and went to see her anyway, but she had full mobility back before the appointment came around.

    A private physio may not be as expensive as you think. I live near Grantham, a medium sized town of about 30,000 people and the last time I went to the physio it was £40 for the first session which included diagnosis and treatment. Subsequent sessions were cheaper and a bit shorter. Exercise plans were given to me and I was shown how to do them. If you live in a big city, then I expect that the charges will be higher. I did not have to sign up to a six-week treatment program or anything like that. If you contact a physio, ask them up front what their charges are. Because it's one-on-one, it cannot ever be cheap, but it is always good value. :)
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