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How to straighten a bent arm?

i had broken bones in my arm, one either side of my elbow and now am not able to straighten my arm. I only had the cast on for 4 weeks.
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First Helper User Profile Gaelic
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replied September 2nd, 2011
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BradHarris64,

If I understand you correctly, you broke the humerus above the elbow and at least one of the bones in the forearm (radius, ulna), below the elbow.

If this is correct, that is considered to be a "floating elbow", a very severe type of fracture.

It is not uncommon to lose range of motion after an injury about the elbow, no matter how long it was immobilized. We try to not immobilize the elbow for any length of time if possible, because stiffness can set in, in as little as a few days of immobilization.


Unfortunately, the fractures have to be healed completely, before a lot of stress in applied to the joint. Once the fractures are healed, intensive physical therapy may help. Sometimes, a brace called a turn-buckle has to be used to apply continuous stretching to the joint.

But, if therapy doesn't help, then sometimes surgery may be needed to release the scar tissue. But, operating on scar tissue is a double edged sword, because any surgery also creates scar, so the surgery could actually make the problem worse.


You should contact your surgeon as soon as you can, because you do not want to let stiffness of the elbow get away from you. the longer it is there, the harder it is to treat it.

Good luck.
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replied September 4th, 2011
Hi Gaelic,
Thanks for the information. I don't think my break would be called floating from my view. The humorous was split in line with the bone whilst the radius was broken across the bone. Not sure if that would really make a difference but i am doing a few home exercise's with light weights and rubber bands for the time being and will see a therapist when i get to somewhere that understands english.

Thanks again

Brad
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replied September 6th, 2011
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Brad,

The distal end of the humerus, the part that makes up the elbow, has a medial and lateral condyle, the two portions that sort of bulge out. The medial condyle, the one next to the body, articulates with the ulna (the point of the elbow). The lateral condyle, away from the body, articulate with the radial head.

If you split off one of those condyles, that is still a pretty significant injury. Since the fracture line would go into the joint, making it an intraarticular fracture. These types of fractures are at higher risk for developing traumatic arthritis later on down the line.

But, again, even though it may not be the classic floating elbow, since you have injuries on both sides of the elbow joint, it sort of makes it harder to rehab.

It's hard enough to rehab the elbow after just a humerus fracture or just a radial shaft fracture, but, both!! You will have your work cut out for you.

While you are waiting to get back somewhere you feel more comfortable doing therapy, you can do the following fairly easily.

Make sure you keep your fingers and wrist motion going. It sounds simple, but they can get stiff really fast. You can stabilize the forearm, and then put the wirst and fingers through their full ROM.

The shoulder can also be mobilized, by using the Codman's exercises. These do not require any lifting of the upper extremity, and can even be done in a sling. They are a pendulum type of exercise that allows forward/backward, side to side, and circular motions. You can find pictures of how to do them on the internet.

These will keep you from getting a frozen shoulder, or stiff fingers, which can both be real problems if you let them get away from you.


Hope you are feeling better very soon. Good luck.
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