Stiffness is a common complication following all acute elbow injuries, especially fractures and dislocations. As a general rule, early movement should be encouraged for all elbow injuries, especially for soft tissue injuries and for stable, non-displaced fractures. Early range of motion can be initiated as soon as tolerated in isolated radial head fractures and should not be delayed more than three weeks in other stable fractures. When surgical treatment is indicated, the internal fixation should be stable enough to allow early movement.
Despite the inherent challenges of treating an individual with a traumatic elbow injury, success can be achieved if rehabilitation focuses on a few important concepts. These concepts include initial control of inflammation, initiation of early range of motion (ROM), and promotion of functional use of the upper extremity (as bone and ligament stability permit). These goals can be accomplished through the use of exercise programmes that increase ROM and strength, continuous passive motion devices (CPM) and through muscle re-education.
The rehabilitation programme often includes the use of elbow braces that are specific to the pathology, the phase of treatment, and the final objective of the treatment. There are several different types of braces. Braces can have fixed protection or locked articulation, allow an adjustable ROM to restrict flexion-extension and pronation-supination, or allow dynamic and static progressive movement.