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Will my daughter regain the ability to fully extend her arm?

(31 Posts)
tigercametotea Tue 17-Jan-12 17:16:45

Today my daughter (age 5) was officially discharged. She broke her left elbow in October of last year, the A&E dr didn't cast her elbow, sent her home in a sling, 10 days later on follow up assessment the ortho said he was expecting her to have came in a cast, anyway so an x ray showed her bones have shifted and an emergency fracture reduction operation was scheduled same day, she was then in a cast for 4 weeks after the op. She had her cast taken off in early December and they said her elbow will be stiff and will need to be exercised regularly to help it extend more gradually. She has been fine since, no pain there, just that she cannot extend her elbow fully. Today I asked the consultant abt it, he didn't promise anything, just said she is young so the chances of elbow recovering to what it was before are high, and then went on to add that in daily life its quite unlikely she would require her elbows to extend fully anyway. Right now she can extend it such that it makes sort of a 120 degree angle at the max. Her other uninjured arm, when extended, actually goes slightly over 180 degrees (over extends) naturally. But he has said she culd resume swimming. So I'm wondering if anyone here knows what I can expect from now? How long will it take for the elbow to straighten up, or is there a real possibility that it never will??

NatashaBee Tue 17-Jan-12 17:21:34

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

agnesf Tue 17-Jan-12 17:27:02

I broke my elbow when aged 9 in the 1970s. Had fairly minmalist physio and a kind of softish plaster thing. They thought about operating but couldn't at the time. It took about a year before I could get it straightish but by the time I got to secondary school it was fine.

tigercametotea Tue 17-Jan-12 17:45:33

No physio referral. Not even suggested at all! Is there anything specific she should be doing daily for her elbow? I suppose there's a chance it won't go back to the way it was then sigh

nemno Tue 17-Jan-12 18:00:17

My son broke his right elbow when he was 5. They tried traction in hospital for a week before resorting to surgery to pin it. After his cast came off I was told he might never be able to straighten it. I really had to push to get him physio but it worked. The physio used a machine (ultrasound??/infrared?? ,could a physiotherapist advise what it might have been please) and with that aimed into his elbow it was really amazing how significantly straighter he could do exercises than a few seconds before without the machine. After a few weeks his arm was back to normal. Good luck.

nemno Tue 17-Jan-12 18:01:38

Sorry, should also have said his pins were removed too.

CMOTDibbler Tue 17-Jan-12 18:53:33

Among the other things I did to my arm in 2010, I broke my elbow. The physio was v straightforward in terms of extension, just gently extending it really. After some surgery on it in 2011 it was very stiff after coming out of plaster, but it did come back.

I'd ask for a physio referral (your gp can do one) so they can look at it. Swimming will be great though as it really helps you work your arm

tigercametotea Tue 17-Jan-12 20:12:48

Do you think I should wait a few more months to see if the elbow will straighten on its own before approaching the gp? Can the physio wait or is it better to be done sooner rather than later? I just don't want to be fobbed off possibly if I go to the gp too early?

CMOTDibbler Tue 17-Jan-12 20:39:21

I think after a month out of plaster, its time to do some physio. Earlier is better than later - obv the physio will assess her and might say that they don't think physio is appropriate, but it can't hurt at all.

If you wanted, you could pay for a private physio session if you are worried about being fobbed off at the gp

BellaVita Tue 17-Jan-12 20:42:37

DS1 broke his arm (just above the elbow) about 4 years ago. After the cast came off, if he brought his hand up towards him, he could not touch his shoulder. He had to have physio which helped quite a lot but he was still maybe an inch off touching his shoulder when he was discharged.

He is now nearly 15 and can touch his shoulder no problem.

tigercametotea Wed 18-Jan-12 14:32:51

Private physio seems costly! I just checked on physio clinic near me for prices. £40+ for initial consultation and £30+ for each subsequent session. Well, I will try the GP. Hopefully DD will get a referral. Otherwise I have looked online for physio exercises to do after an elbow radial head injury/surgery and have found quite a few ROM (Range of Motion) exercises. Don't know if its okay that I try some of them out with DD but that will have to do if we can't get a referral.

flamingtoaster Wed 18-Jan-12 14:37:36

My DS broke his elbow when he was 7 - he actually chipped a bit off and it had to be pinned with several pins. He was in theatre/recovery for 1 1/2 hours. We were told he wouldn't get full mobility back but that swimming would help. We took him swimming every week and he did, eventually get full mobility back. Good luck.

teacherwith2kids Wed 18-Jan-12 14:39:40

Happened to a friend's daughter - hospital just said 'it would improve with time'. Child does regular ballet at a strict ballet school for a couple of hours a week, and the doctors have been amazed at how quickly she has regained full movement. They think it's because of the regular, very structured, gentle but precise movement of ballet.

brass Wed 18-Jan-12 14:54:10

there may be a waiting list for the physio so best to get GP to do referral now. It will take a while before they contact you anyway but you should press for it as they can task the exercises specifically for her injury and you can better help her with them if you see what the physio is doing.

If you leave it too long scar tissue may develop and hinder movement or she may start over compensating in her natural movements if she is experiencing discomfort. You should be aiming for gentle regular exercise while the healing is going on. hth

brass Wed 18-Jan-12 14:55:50

no reason why they shouldn't refer you OP.

Kenobi Wed 18-Jan-12 15:00:56

Swimming is brilliant physio tiger. I broke my shoulder in 4 places aged 27 and was told I would never regain full movement at the top of my range (ie holding arm straight up) which sucked.

I ended up swimming a couple of times a day and it healed perfectly.

Also agree that physio referral asap is VITAL. Time is of the essence.

Peetle Wed 18-Jan-12 15:22:54

I smashed my elbow quite thoroughly in about 1975. I had it pinned and in a huge cast for ages afterwards (I was 11). I was always told it was rebuilt the way it was as I was still growing and this would ensure it grew straight, even if I couldn't fully extend it. Apparently I could have another op when I stopped growing and would then be able to straighten it.

I never had the second op and have never been able to fully extend it. This is very rarely a problem and has never stopped me from doing anything. Most of the time I'm not even aware of it - and my arm is straight.

tigercametotea Thu 19-Jan-12 11:52:40

I've made an appointment to see the GP for a physio referral for DD. Earliest one available next Monday. I hope it goes through. DD started going back to ballet class last week. She's in Pre-Primary RAD but I really don't think they do anything there enough to give her arm much exercise. Her first swimming lesson since the accident with her elbow is this Sunday. Well, I think, observing her movements at home, she typically keeps her arm quite stiff in a sort of bended position. She can extend it fairly well if she has to, but will prefer to keep it bended in that awkward position as if it were still in a sling. I'm a bit concerned about scar tissue and overcompensation of movement as brass describes.

brass Thu 19-Jan-12 12:14:01

She's so young I'm sure she'll bounce back as she still has all her growing to do. They're practically made of rubber at that age!

Good luck with it all.

isitmidnightalready Sat 21-Jan-12 22:26:15

my 5 yr old DD broke her arm just above the elbow late september2011. She had pins and a cast put on straight away (all bent wrong after the accident so looked awful). She had the cast off after 6 weeks and the pins out at the same time, and had restricted movement initially. Four months on from the break, she can extend her arm fully and is just a few degrees less than her other arm in bending it (maybe one or two inches difference at the wrist). She has no pain in either direction, and we are told this progress is perfectly normal. No physio was prescribed. It seems as strong as the other arm, but probably isn't. She uses it fully now and has for a month or so, she was alittle cautious withit to begin with.

Not much real advice, but thought it might be a useful comparison.

accidentprawn Sun 22-Jan-12 08:16:47

ask for a referral to physio. when i was 7, i broke my elbow in 3 places ( don`t wish to scare you smile) that was 34 years ago. i cannot straighten my arm fully , this was the 70`s though! put in plaster for 2 months - changed after 1 month no operation or physio just plaster. i still have a lump!!

hope i havent scared you silly. if you have any worries pm me and i will help you as much as i can! x

catsareevil Sun 22-Jan-12 08:33:05

If you have the it might be worth seeing a private physio, at least initially.
Waiting time for private physio tends to be a matter of days, and it might be a case of seeing them once and then getting exercises to do at home.
Even if you do eventually go with an NHS referral it means that the time spent waiting for it isnt wasted time.

ragged Sun 22-Jan-12 09:12:38

I broke my arm 2 years ago & physio was great; in my case the tendons had shortened from being held in the cast so long & I needed to do stretches to get them to lengthen again so I could supinate fully. It only took one physio assessment for me to find out what to do (didn't need to go back). I had to chase up for physio too.

Have broken my left arm twice & right arm once, all well with them now. Only needed physio with one of those breaks. So don't worry.

You could try my exercise now, it's so simple. Put forearm on flat service (table is ideal) but with hand hanging over edge & just stretch the hand under to full comfortable stretch. This literally helped get my tendons back to proper size. Different tendon groups require different stretches, though.

Be careful with her arm, it won't be up to full strength for a while yet.

learningtofly Sun 22-Jan-12 10:23:17

When I worked in outpatients physio (a long long time ago) we accepted referrals for post elbow fractures and iirc it would depend sometimes on the severity of the fracture and if any surgical intervention had impacted on the range. But as I say it was 10 years plus ago!

You don't necessarily need full range at the elbow to be functional but we would try our best

brass Sun 22-Jan-12 12:38:24

please don't panic about physio, there is plenty of healing time and you don't need to fork out for private. She will get seen by nhs in good enough time. Just that they are necessary in targeting the right exercises for best healing. That's why you need them.

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