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Rehabilitation for a Broken Elbow

by
author image Jessica Wellons
Jessica Wellons has been writing professionally since 2007. She is a scientific writer and fervent health enthusiast writing for The American College of Preventative Medicine and Writing Assistance Inc. She is pursuing a doctoral degree in clinical medicine from the University of North Carolina and has a Master of Science in clinical pathology from the University of North Carolina.
Rehabilitation for a Broken Elbow
Exercises during the rehabilitation process of a broken elbow help restore flexibility and range of motion. Photo Credit patrisyu/iStock/Getty Images

The elbow is a joint that involves three bones: the humerus, the ulna and the radius.The olecranon is the end of the ulna; you can feel it easily when your elbow is bent. This bone can be fractured as a result of direct or indirect trauma. The goal of rehabilitation is to restore range of motion and strength to your elbow. To help you recover flexibility and movement in your elbow, your physician may recommend exercises. Check with her to make sure the exercises described here are appropriate for you.

Causes

The olecranon rotates around the end of the humerus and is highly susceptible to injury because it is not protected by muscles or soft tissue. According to the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the olecranon is the most commonly fracture bone in the elbow. It is often injured as the result of direct trauma, such as landing directly on your elbow, or indirect trauma, such as falling on an outstretched arm or twisting your elbow beyond its normal range motion. This results in an altered elbow structure, elbow instability, lose of function, inability to straighten the elbow and usually extreme pain and stiffness.

Treatment

The treatment plan for an elbow fracture depends on the severity of the break. A cast or splint may be used to hold your elbow in place during the healing process. Without surgical intervention, a fractured elbow needs to be in a cast for eight to 10 weeks to ensure properly healing and alignment of the broken bone. When the fracture is displaced or open, surgery is required to prevent infection and ensure that the tricep muscle as well as the olecranon heal properly. The operating surgeon may use a metal plate with screws or pins and wires to hold bones together while they heal. Following your doctor's instructions is essential in ensuring that the fracture heals. Your doctor will likely prescribe pain medication to alleviate the associated pain and discomfort.

Rehabilitation

The humerus, ulna and radius function as four distinctive joints. These bones are surrounded by ligaments, muscles and tendons that shape the bone and hold the elbow together. The primary goal of rehabilitation from an elbow fracture is to restore elasticity to the elbow joint and pain free range of motion. Your physician will likely recommend some exercises that prevent muscle atrophy, promote flexion and extension of your elbow as well as pronation and supination of your forearm. These exercise should be performed a minimum of once daily to increase the circulation of blood and nutrients to your elbow joint and increase coordination.

Rehabilitation Exercises

Rehabilitation exercises stretches the muscles, tendons and ligaments in your forearm and upper arm and help restore elasticity and range of motion to your injured elbow.

Perform the wrist flexor stretch by extending your injured arm straight ahead with your palm facing up. Ensuring that your elbow remains straight, place the palm and fingers of your opposite hand across the palm and fingers of the injured, extended hand. Gently draw your injured hand back until you feel a stretch in your forearm. Hold this position for five seconds and then relax. Perform one set of 10 repetitions three times daily.

Begin a pronation and suppination stretch by extending your injured hand forward with your palm facing up. Slowly rotate your hand from a palm up position to a palm down position. Hold this position for five seconds, and rotate your arm to the palm up position. Perform one set of 10 repetitions, three times daily.

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