Question:I broke and dislocated my elbow playing touch football with a bunch of friends. I'm in a special fixator device with pins to hold it until it heals. The surgeon has told me not to lift anything that weighs more than a can of Coke. What would happen if I did accidentally lift something too heavy?
Answer:Elbow injuries are notoriously difficult to heal. Any extra stress or load can cause a disruption of the healing tissues. Very often when the elbow is dislocated, the ligaments on one (or even both) side(s) of the joint are damaged, too.
These are the medial and lateral collateral ligaments. They keep the elbow moving in a straight plane of motion even when outside forces push it to one side or the other. This type of side-to-side displacement is called a varus or valgus stress. The name describes which direction the joint is pushed.
Studies show that the external fixator can support and stabilize the unweighted joint. The weight of the hand plus about 12 ounces is all the healing tissues can handle. Any more than that and you risk re-injuring the soft tissues.
Most people are eager to get out of the fixator. Reinjury may increase the length of time needed for healing. Too much stress may result in the need for further surgery to stabilize the joint.Srinath Kamineni, MD, et al. Effectiveness of the Lateral Unilateral Dynamic External Fixator After Elbow Ligament Injury. In The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. August 2007. Vol. 89-A. No. 8. Pp. 1802-1809.
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