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Common Injuries and Treatments

Ankle / Elbow / Hip / Knee / Shoulder / Spine / Wrist



Radial Head Injuries, Fractures and Dislocation

What is a radial head injury?

The radial head is the elbow end of the ulna (forearm bone) on the thumb side. It is vital to our ability to turn our hand over through movements of the forearm. It has a loose attachment to the elbow joint mostly supported by ligaments.

What causes injuries to this tissue?

Injuries to this part of the radius are especially common with trauma to the area.  Sometimes children will partially dislocate the radial head because of a strong pull on the child’s arm to lift them up. Fractures of this area are common with falls onto an outstretched arm.

What is the best treatment approach?

Fractures of the radial head will require immobilization (often with a cast) and in rare cases surgery.  Dislocations can often be relocated quickly and easily by a medical professional.

What will the role of physical therapy be in this process?

Physical therapy is common after the immobilization period after a fracture. The muscles, ligaments and capsular tissue (cartilage that holds our joints together) that is not moved while immobilized adaptively shortens while casted or braced. This leads to joint stiffness. Muscles that are not used during the immobilization also become weaker. These issues lead to limited functional ability after healing. Physical therapy focuses on stretching of these shortened, tight tissues with manual stretching, massage, joint mobilization and then strengthening of the weak muscles.  

Will other services be helpful in taking care of this?

Underlying muscle tightness and soft tissue restrictions that are found to be related to radial head injuries may be helped by massage therapy work.  Acupuncture can also be of assistance with the pain associated with these conditions.  Training to return to specific life tasks or sports can be initiated by physical therapists and progressed by personal trainers.  After your initial physical therapy evaluation, your physical therapist will help to determine if these services may be helpful.

Need More?

If you have more clinical questions about this condition, please click here to email our Director of Clinical Operations, Jessica Douglas, MSPT, OCS, or you can get more information by searching our blog.

If you'd like a complimentary injury screen with one of our licensed physical therapists to discuss your condition, please contact us.

If you're ready to make an appointment for any of our services, please contact us.

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