A dislocated elbow occurs when the bones that make up the joint are forced out of alignment typically when you land on an outstretched hand during a fall. The elbow is the second most commonly dislocated joint after the shoulder in adults, and the most commonly dislocated joint in children. Extreme pain and distortion of the joint are the common symptoms experienced by the victim. Toddlers with dislocated elbow might experience pain only when the affected elbow is moved. A child often avoids using the arm and holds it slightly flexed next to the body. Sometimes, the elbow is only partially dislocated.
Partial dislocation can cause bruising and pain where the ligaments were stretched or torn. The most common causes of a dislocated elbow include falls, motor vehicle accidents, improper lifting & sudden pulling. Some dislocated elbows go back into place by themselves. Most, however, need a doctor to manipulate the bones back into their proper alignment.
This procedure is called a reduction. Medications are given to relieve pain and relax muscles before the process of reduction. Physical therapy exercises are suggested to improve the joint's range of motion and strength. Surgery is recommended if any of the dislocated bones have also been broken, torn ligaments need to be reattached and when damaged nerves or blood vessels need repair.