Lt Col Jerman
Like many other orthopedic conditions, there is no quick fix for most elbow injuries. The treatments vary depending on the cause and severity of the injury. Dr. Patel, can you tell us about some of these treatments?
Absolutely, Dr. Jerman, and you’re right. Treatment for traumatic injuries will vary depending on the severity and location of the damage. Fractures are classified by the degree of displacement, or how far out of normal position the bones are. Less severe fractures in which there is no displacement can typically be treated with the use of a splint or sling to stabilize the elbow, followed by a gradual return to movement. In more severe fractures, where the bones have been displaced or even punctured the skin, surgery will likely be necessary to remove bone fragments and reset the bones in their proper alignment.
The first line of treatment for dislocated elbows is a procedure called reduction, which manipulates the bones of the joint back into alignment. An anesthetic or sedative will be administered prior to reduction. Some elbow dislocations are treated by keeping the elbow immobile with a splint or sling for two to three weeks, followed by a gradual return to motion. Other elbow dislocations may require surgery to realign the bones and repair ligaments. After surgery, a device called an external hinge may be used to protect the elbow from dislocating again.
Rehabilitation following any surgery, whether it’s for a repetitive motion injury or a traumatic injury, usually involves physical therapy. A physical therapist may suggest a variety of treatments, including exercises to increase the flexibility and strength of the elbow, and to restore the range of motion. You may also benefit from massage, or the application of heat or ice. A physical therapist can design a program specifically for you, based on your condition.