Dislocated Elbow Treatment

A dislocated elbow is a painful injury where the arm bones are partially or completely forced out of alignment from the joint.

At Vitalis Physiotherapy, our treatment post-elbow dislocation aims to:

What is a dislocated elbow?

The elbow is a stable structure due to the support of the bones and joint from ligaments, tendons, muscle and tissue. As the elbow is one of the body’s most mobile joints, it is prone to dislocation. Dislocations can either be partial (subluxation) or complete separation (luxation) from the joint, and can be further classified as:

  • Simple dislocation – resulting in no major bone injury
  • Complex dislocation – resulting in serious bone or ligament injury/damage (e.g. avulsion fractures, where a ligament will pull off a tiny bit of bone from its attachment, etc.).
  • Severe dislocation – resulting in severe damage to most elbow structures (including bones, ligaments, tendons, blood vessels, nerves, etc.).

If the dislocation causes damage to nearby structures, it may affect recovery periods and the chance of re-injury.

Question mark

What are the causes?

The cause of a dislocated elbow can vary. Strong force is required to completely separate the bone from nearby structures, hence affecting the degree of dislocation.

Some common factors which can trigger a dislocation include:

  • Falls – especially when the arm is used to break impact, sending sudden force through the elbow
  • Sports-related injuries – extreme force or sudden impact against the shoulder
  • Trauma – car accidents or high-contact activity
  • Abnormal, rapid and sudden movement/force against the elbow joint
  • Hypermobile joints – genetic predisposition or joint disorders (like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome) which cause greater laxity/instability in the joint

Highly active individuals, as well as males in their teens-20s are most at risks of dislocating their elbow. Additionally, toddlers are also prone to elbow dislocations, mainly due to improper pulling or lifting of the child’s arm which pulls the bones out of the joint.

What are the symptoms?

  • Severe pain after impact/injury – referred pain felt down the hands, fingers, arm or shoulder
  • Stiffness/inability to move or straighten the elbow or arm
  • Popping sound at time of injury
  • Reduced or no range of movement
  • Visibly deformed joints/bones under the skin
  • Swelling and bruising; tenderness
Elbow Pain

Treatment for an elbow dislocation

If you have dislocated your elbow, it is important to seek out immediate medical treatment. You will likely be referred for CT, X-ray or MRI scans to determine the extent of the injury. It is important to have a trained professional “pop” your elbow back in to minimise risk of damage to the surrounding structures.


Physical therapy is highly beneficial in rehabilitating the structures around the elbow joint after a dislocation to increase range of movement and prevent recurrence. At Vitalis Physiotherapy, we tailor a unique treatment plan to aid in your recovery through:

  • Stretching, strengthening and/or conditioning exercises
  • Restoring range of movement
  • Postural improvement
  • Soft tissue mobilisations (massage)
  • Shockwave Therapy
  • Dry needling
  • Taping
  • A unique home exercise program
  • Graded Exposure to load program

If the pain and reduced movement is severe, driving and strenuous activity should be avoided. Your physiotherapist may also advise heat or ice application, rest and if necessary, pain medication. Additionally, they might recommend for you to use supportive braces, slings or straps.

How to book an appointment?

If you have dislocated your elbow, or you’re looking for a physiotherapist around me, our team at Vitalis Physiotherapy can assess and diagnose the condition. They will then tailor your treatment plan to aid in your pain relief and recovery.

All you need to do is just give us a call on 0410 559 856 and request an initial appointment. Please let our friendly reception staff know the background and severity of your condition.

You can visit our FAQs for more information about appointments at Vitalis Physiotherapy.


Need Help?

Are you in pain caused by a dislocated elbow? Contact Vitalis Physiotherapy now to book in your treatment.

Call our friendly team on 0410 559 856. We’d love to help.

Contact us for more information on treatment

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Sinnamon Park Village

3/58 Oldfield Road, Sinnamon Park Qld 4073


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