An elbow dislocation occurs when the bones of the elbow are pushed or
pulled out of their normal positions. You are most likely to dislocate your
elbow when you fall on your outstretched, extended arm.
Symptoms of a dislocated elbow may include:
A bone poking through the skin or visible in a wound.
A decreased pulse or no pulse at the wrist.
skin or numbness or tingling in or below the affected elbow (if nerves or blood
vessels were injured or pinched by the dislocation).
Swelling and bruising that appears within 30 minutes of the
Severe pain that increases with any movement.
misshapen joint (the bone looks out of its normal position). The dislocated
elbow will look very different than the opposite elbow.
to bend or straighten the arm (locked elbow). This may occur because of pain or
because the bones are locked and can't move.
A feeling that
something popped or feels out of place.
A feeling of looseness or
instability at the elbow.
A grating sound or feeling with movement
of or pressure on the injured arm.
A dislocation can be a problem even if the bone pops back into its
Soft tissues in or around a joint (such as
ligaments, tendons, muscles, cartilage, and the joint capsule) may stretch or
tear or become trapped within the joint.
Nerves and blood vessels
often are very close to the bone and can be damaged easily when a bone
Sometimes when a bone dislocates, a piece of bone at
the base of the dislocated joint may break off and end up inside the joint or
cause a fracture that extends into the joint.
Immediate medical treatment may include:
Putting the bone back in place (if it hasn't
already popped back into its normal position).
Having surgery to
repair torn blood vessels, ligaments, or nerves.
After the elbow is back in its normal position, further medical
treatment may include:
Using ice initially and then
Taking medicines to decrease pain and
Immobilizing the elbow with an elbow
Doing physical therapy, such as stretching and strengthening
Having surgery to prevent repeated dislocations.
Primary Medical Reviewer
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.