October 5, 2008

Elbow Update III

Posted in injury at 2:25 pm by berzerkeleyan

It’s been a little over three months since dislocating my elbow. How’m I doin’? Well, the experts seem happy with my progress. I, on the other hand, was really hoping to be a lot further along by now. As in, fully recovered. But as of today, I can extend my arm 165 degrees (out of 180) and flex to 40 degrees. I’m very happy with the flexion, but extension cannot be achieved without a lot of force (and a lot of pain). And to do both in quick succession is simply not possible without some agony. I haven’t run out of patience yet, but I’d be lying if said I didn’t have periodic moments of frustration.

That written, my progress would be a lot worse if it weren’t for the contraption you see above. The Ultraflex splint is a brace that has an adjustable spring which forces the arm to extend or flex, constantly applying pressure on the elbow ligaments. By gently forcing the arm to extend or flex over extended periods of time (6-10 hours/day), more joint elasticity is recovered than physical therapy alone.

I can’t say enough about this brace. Though it can be painful to wear, it has accelerated my recovery significantly. Based on my progress so far, I predict it’ll be another two or three months before I reach my limit. What that is, I don’t know yet. But there’s no reason for me to think I can’t reach full extension some day. Until then, I’ll have to wear what I affectionately call the Bear Trap as often as possible.

I also need to continue keeping things in perspective. As frustrating as this injury has been, it could always be worse. Take a look at this:

That is an X-ray of an injury suffered by a good friend of mine a month ago. He broke his ulna in four places, and his radius in one (look closely and you can see all five breaks). The worst part? It was a compound fracture. That’s right, folks. My friend writhed in agony for 30 min. with a bone sticking out of his arm before the ambulance mercifully arrived. Dayyammm!! He was in surgery for three hours to have a rod inserted to stabilize the ulna, and a plate and screws added to reconnect the radius. If there’s any good news to be had, there is no tendon or ligament damage. He’ll be in a cast for six weeks, but he should regain his flexibility relatively quickly. Details are sketchy as to how he wrecked his arm so thoroughly. But I’m guessing shark attack. He does live in New Zealand, after all.

So you see folks, it can always be worse. Always.

So count your blessings. Always.



  1. Terri Brown said,

    If you need a great doctor to help your elbow and arm, Dr. Shawn O’Driscoll is the best in the WORLD. He is at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN. My son suffered a combination of you and your friend’s arm problems. After 9 months of not being able to move his arm and 4 surgeries, he had Dr. O’Driscoll repair his arm with an elbow replacement. His recovery is going smoothly and he will go back next week for his 6wk check up. Remember there are more people out there going through the same experience.

    Terri Brown

    • Thanks for the advice. The level of care I’ve received has been fantastic. Though I have some heterotopic ossification on the medial side of the elbow, it’s fortunately not impinging the ulnar nerve nor preventing me from extension or flexion.

      I took (and continue to take) my rehab seriously. Though I’ll never get full extension, I’m only about seven degrees off at this point. And full flexion is not far off either. That’s better than what my orthopedist thought I’d ultimately get. So I’m happy.

      I read your son’s posts. Yikes. I’m very grateful my break and tear weren’t as serious as his. I’m glad to read that he’s progressing, though. I wish him the best.

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