Elbow dislocation occurs when any bone that forms the particular joint displaces from its normal position. Though elbow dislocation is not as common as a shoulder dislocation it is however one of the most frequently dislocated joint of the human body. Elbow dislocation is also a sports related injury that needs to be treated immediately. Coaches and athletes must seek immediate medical attention in case of an elbow dislocation as the condition can be simple or complex depending upon the damage and extent of injury.

A simple dislocation does not include any bone injury, whereas, a complex dislocation involves severe damage to the bones, ligaments, and blood vessels. If the joint surfaces are partially separated, it is known as subluxation or partial dislocation. In a complete dislocation, the surfaces of the joint are completely separated. Though the joint may move back in position in subluxation; however, the complete dislocation needs medical care and procedure.


Any trauma that pushes the elbow out of socket

Falling on stretched hand or arm

Sports activities such as skateboarding, cycling, gymnastics, etc


  • Intense pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Tenderness
  • Numbness
  • Protruding bones
  • Inability to straighten the elbow
  • Loss of sensation in the hand
  • Deformed elbow


An orthopedic doctor diagnoses elbow dislocation by physically examining the patient and referring to the medical history of the patient. He also checks for any signs of injury to the nerves or blood vessels. Usually to diagnose dislocation or fracture-dislocation, an X-ray is recommended. Other imaging tests such as MRI or CT scan are effective in checking out the extent of damage to the joint cartilage, ligaments, bones and other soft tissues.


Depending on the severity of dislocation, orthopedic doctors can treat the elbow dislocation non-surgically and surgically. Often the elbow relocates with time and sometimes, a trained practitioner puts the elbow back in place with a quick jerk. Even a trained medical person can treat the condition at the emergency site, for example at an athletic event.

The complex elbow dislocation is usually treated surgically. If the dislocation involves damage to the bones or ligament the orthopedic surgeon may surgically restore alignment and function. The surgeon uses external fixation devices, pins and wires to hold everything together until the elbow is healed and restored properly.

With the improvement in the range of motion of elbow, physical therapists recommend certain strengthening exercises which help in rehabilitation and gaining strength. The orthopedic surgeons suggest that the patients avoid putting traction on the elbow during the healing process.

For comprehensive treatment of elbow dislocations, visit OrthoTexas at 4031 West Plano Parkway Suite 100, Plano, TX 75093. To schedule an appointment, call at (972) 985-1072.