Rehabilitation After Radial Head Surgery

Severe radial head fractures may require surgery to insert pins or rods to hold the bones together to promote healing. In some cases, arthroscopic surgery may be performed to repair torn ligaments or remove extra fragments of bone. In severe cases, when the radial head bone has broken into multiple pieces that cannot be put back together for healing, a procedure known as radial head replacement may be performed. During this procedure, the deformed radial head is surgically removed and replaced with a prosthetic radial head. This surgery may be performed to improve long-term function of the elbow.

Physical therapy often begins shortly after surgery to help restore strength and movement and allow patients to gradually resume their regular activities. Initial physical therapy treatments may include ice, electrical stimulation and massage, to help control pain and swelling. As the healing begins, exercises may be used to increase movement and mobility. Physical therapy exercises focus on improving the strength, control, and movement of the arm and elbow. Treatment may include:

  • Muscle strengthening exercises
  • Elbow strengthening exercises
  • Grip strengthening activities
  • Range of motion exercises

The physical therapist may also make suggestions and create exercises for increasing flexibility as well as advise patients on how to perform activities and exercises without endangering the area of repair.

A rehabilitation program after surgery may be directly linked to the severity of the initial injury and the type of repair that was performed. Severe injuries that require more complex surgery may have a longer period of rehabilitation than those that require less invasive surgery. Most patients will follow a physical therapy routine and receive treatment for about 4 months following surgery. At that time, most patients can return to all regular physical activity.

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