Physiotherapy for Elbow Dislocation

Elbow dislocation happens when bones joining at your elbow become separated causing symptoms. There are three bones comprising your elbow joint. They are your upper arm bone (humerus) and two forearm bones (radius and ulna).


The most common cause of elbow dislocation is a fall on an outstretched hand (FOOSH injury). Sometimes you can dislocate your elbow when you try to reach forward with your arms straight on the car’s dashboard or sit during a car crash. Falling from a significant height may also lead to an elbow injury.


Symptoms of elbow dislocation may include
  • Severe pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Deformed elbow
  • Difficulty moving your elbow
  • Weak or no pulse on the wrist (blood vessel damage)
  • Numbness or absence of sensation of hand (nerve injury)

If you have a dislocated elbow, you should have it looked by a qualified health care professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

What you can do

Stop your activity and immediately apply an ice pack (wrapped with towel) for 20 minutes at a time and go to your nearest emergency room for prompt treatment. Untreated elbow dislocation may lead to more complications and permanent deformity.

Physiotherapy Treatments for Elbow Dislocation

There are several physiotherapy treatment options for elbow dislocation, which may include a combination of any of the following
  • Immobilization
  • Ice application
  • Heat pack application
  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
  • Ultrasound
  • Elbow joint mobilization
  • Physical therapy exercises
    • Range of motion exercises
      • Passive range of motion (PROM) exercises
      • Active-assistive range of motion (AAROM) exercises
      • Active range of motion (AROM) exercises
      • Active resistive range of motion (ARROM) exercises
    • Stretching or Flexibility exercises
    • Strengthening exercises
  • Patient education
    • About elbow dislocation
    • Precautions to observe
    • Self-care of symptoms
    • Self-care of wound (if with surgery)
    • Injury prevention
  • Recommend work/activity/sports-specific rehabilitation program

The type of treatment plan provided for you will depend on your specific elbow problems, the stage of your recovery, and your goals. The treatment options enumerated above does not mean that your physiotherapist will provide them to you in one visit. Your physiotherapist will be able to help you determine the best plan of care for you.

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