Dislocated Elbow In Adults & Toddlers: Causes And How To Fix It?

Dislocation of the elbow occurs when the bones which make up the elbow joint are pushed out of alignment, more so due to injury or trauma when one falls on an outstretched hand.

Toddlers are known to experience elbow dislocation, known as nursemaid’s elbow, when they are lifted by their forearms.

Elbow dislocation is quite frequently seen, but it is vital to seek immediate medical aid to rule out and prevent complications.

Complications are known to develop if the dislocated elbow presses on to the blood vessels and nerves which serve the forearm and the hand.

By and large, realignment of the joint can be achieved without surgery. Nonetheless, the impact that caused the dislocation can also cause fractures in the joint, and consequently surgical repair may be mandatory in a few cases.

Causes Of A Dislocated Elbow

Commonest causes of a dislocated elbow in adults are:

  • Falls: When one falls onto an outstretched hand, the upper arm bone may get thrown out of position within the joint.
  • Vehicle accidents: The same type of impact can occur when a passenger in a vehicle accident reaches forwards to prop himself before a crash.

In toddlers the causes are:

  • Unsuitable lifting: Swinging or lifting a toddler by the arms causes the elbow to dislocate.
  • Sudden pulling: Suddenly stepping off a stair when you’re holding his hand can pull the elbow out of position.

The following are the risk factors associated with elbow dislocation:

  • Age: Elbows of children are much more flexible than those of adults, thus it is easier for the elbow to get dislocated.
  • Sex: It is more common in males than in females.
  • Heredity: Some are born with elbow ligaments that are looser than others.
  • Sports: A lot of elbow dislocations are sports-linked, but no one sport seems to be riskier than another.

Symptoms of dislocated elbow include:

  • Excessive pain
  • Noticeable bend of the elbow joint

In some cases, the elbow may be partly dislocated, which results in pain and bruising where the ligaments are torn.

How To Fix A Dislocated Elbow?

Your health care provider will cautiously examine your elbow and check whether your arm or hand is cold or numb, which signifies trapping of a nerve or artery. He will try to move the bones gently back into place after looking at the X-rays to ensure that there is no fracture.

Some dislocations go back into place by themselves. A large number of them, however, require a doctor to manipulate the bones back into correct position.

First and foremost your doctor will give you analgesics or pain killers. Before the bones are manipulated into proper alignment, you will be administered drugs to allay the pain and relax the muscles.

Then the doctor will bring them slowly back in to place by a procedure called reduction. After achieving normal alignment, you will have to wear a splint for a couple of weeks. Physical therapy is also recommended to improve the range of movement of the joint as well as the strength of the muscles of the joint.

In certain cases surgery may be necessary to fix the dislocation. Surgery may be required if:

  • There is a fracture.
  • Torn ligaments need to be reattached.
  • There are any damaged nerves or blood vessels.

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