A loss of the ability to fully straighten your elbow is one of the most common side effects of an injured elbow. Whether it be after a fracture or a dislocation or just a bad sprain the inability to straighten the elbow is one of the most common reasons that sufferers of elbow injuries seek physiotherapy.
The elbow is a hinge joint and generally opens and closes just like a door, however injury to the joint often results in a restriction in your ability to fully “close the door”.
A couple of factors contribute to an inability to fully straighten your elbow after a significant injury to the joint. Firstly, a period of immobilisation in, for example, a sling, will lead to soft tissue tightness in the muscles, ligaments and joint capsule of the elbow. If this period of immobilisation is prolonged it can take a substantial period of time to stretch out fully once immobilisation is no longer necessary. Physiotherapy is extremely effective at resolving this type of restriction in elbow range of movement.
A second reason for developing an inability to fully straighten the elbow would occur after elbow fracture. Depending upon the location of the fracture and the alignment of the healed fracture site a bony restriction to the achievement of full elbow straightening may exist. This will typically restrict straightening of the elbow rather than bending of the elbow but can effect both to a degree.
Physiotherapy and stretching exercises are also effective in helping to restore loss of movement of this nature. There may however be a limit to the amount of movement which may be restored in this instance where bony blocking is occurring as the elbow attempts to lock out.