What is Elbow Instability?
Elbow instability is a condition in which the elbow joint occasionally slides out of alignment due to the unstable state of the joint.
Causes of Elbow Instability
Elbow instability usually occurs due to an intense elbow injury from a fall or other trauma with or without elbow joint dislocation. Instability can also be associated with the following:
- Previous elbow surgery
- Elbow deformity
- Overuse injury
Symptoms of Elbow Instability
The various signs and symptoms of elbow instability include:
- Pain with arm movements such as bending or throwing
- Locking or catching of the elbow
- An unstable sensation
- A clicking sound
Diagnosis of Elbow Instability
Your doctor will diagnose elbow instability based on your medical history and a physical examination. Once the preliminary diagnosis is complete, your doctor may use imaging techniques such as X-ray, MRI, or MRI arthrography to obtain a detailed view of the elbow and look for other injuries.
Treatment of Elbow Instability
Different treatment methods are used based on the severity of the condition.
Most cases of elbow instability can be managed by nonsurgical treatment, including rest, activity modification, and physical therapy. Your doctor may perform an external reduction if the elbow is dislocated. A sling or brace may keep the elbow immobile for a specific duration to facilitate healing. Simple motion exercises may be recommended to improve strength and movement.
In some cases, surgical treatment may be necessary to restore elbow alignment and stability. This may involve repairing or reconstructing damaged ligaments and realigning the bones in cases of fracture or dislocation. Once this is complete, an external fixator device may support the joint and facilitate healing. Surgery may sometimes be required to repair damaged blood vessels and nerves. A defined recovery period and physical therapy are recommended following surgery.