Dislocation of the elbow

Sometimes when the elbow joint is hit or twisted the bones become out of position and need repositioning. This is a dislocation. If the bone ‘pops’ out but ‘pops’ back in it is known as a subluxation.


A sudden pulling of the arm can cause an elbow dislocation.  For example if a child is swung by the arms, or a severe blow to the elbow or falling onto an outstretched hand.


On impact a snapping feeling is followed by severe pain. Swelling follows very quickly and the arm is unable to function. If a nerve is also pinched there will b a tingling feeling or numbness in the forearm and hand. The elbow will be very tender and swollen.


This is an emergency situation so immediately immobilize the elbow in the position found and apply ice to reduce swelling and inflammation Check the sensory functions as the patient maybe suffering from shock and check the pulse regularly. Seek medical assistance straight away.


  • Fully flex the arm keeping it supported on the thigh.
  • Raise the arm above the head and extend the arm at the elbow.
  • Support the arm on the table with the hand going over the edge palm up and perform one full wrist curl. Repeat this twice, slowly and controlled.
  • Perform this exercise again but this time with the palm down.
  • Rest the arm on the table and move the wrist from left to right 10 times.
  • Use a bar with a weight suspended from it with string. Wind it up and then unwind.
  • Squeeze a rubber ball. This can be done whilst watching TV or chatting with friends or waiting for a bus.

Perform these exercises twice for two days and then repeat using an exercise tube for resistance. Stretch the tube slowly and steadily.


Resume sport only when the elbow is strengthened and flexible. Many of the muscles that move the elbow also move the entire arm so it is important to have the shoulder and wrist in peak condition. Warming up will increase the body and muscle temperature and bring blood and oxygen to the working muscles. This will lubricate the muscles, joints and connective tissue and help reduce injury from sudden movements. Continue with strengthening exercises for two months after returning to sport.

Protecting the elbow

Supports can be worn in the form of a brace or support bandage.