Elbow rehabilitation

The key to successful rehabilitation of the elbow is early movement.  The most common problem after elbow injury or surgery is stiffness.  Instability is rare, even after elbow dislocation.  This is because the elbow joint has a lot of bony congruity.  If the elbow is too unstable to mobilise then instability surgery is indicated.
Active mobilisation, where the individual moves the elbow themselves, is essential.  Passive movement, where the elbow is stretched by someone else or by using weights on the forearm, may lead to more stiffness in the elbow and is not recommended.
After surgery or injury elbow movement should be started within two weeks.  Movement will continue to improve until approximately six months, after which time the elbow movement is unlikely to improve.  If despite early movement the elbow remains stiff you should consult your doctor or physiotherapist.  Splints applied to the arm, for example at night, may help to improve movement in certain situations but these should be used under the supervision of a health care professional.
In some circumstances the elbow may become permanently stiff.  If the stiffness is marked then joint release surgery may be required.