Q. Three weeks ago my 15-year-old daughter fell. She landed on her hands and she felt a sharp pain and a feeling like her left elbow slid out and then back in place. She came home and her elbow hurt and it swelled a little. Her pain gradually improved and is nearly gone. However, she still can’t straighten out her elbow. How long does it take for her elbow motion to be normal and is there anything she should do to help?
A. It sounds like your daughter subluxed her left elbow out of joint and then it spontaneously went back into place. For this to happen she had to tear ligaments in her elbow that allowed the instability to occur. Resting has allowed the pain to improve but scar tissue during the healing process can limit the range of motion.
The most common motion loss is the ability to fully extend the elbow. This cosmetically is not attractive and function can be impaired. It is important your daughter see an orthopedic surgeon quickly. X-rays are needed to make sure there are no associated fractures. If the diagnosis is confirmed, then she will likely need physical therapy to help restore normal motion and strength. The longer the motion is limited, the harder it will be to get it all back.
Dr. Harlan Selesnick is team physician of the Miami Heat and director of Miami Sports Medicine Fellowship, Doctors Hospital. Send your questions to HarlanS@baptisthealth.net.