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Restoring Range of Motion After Elbow Replacement

Total elbow replacement refers to a surgery that creates an artificial joint. Damage to your elbow can initially occur from badly broken bones, severely torn tissues, a tumor in or around the elbow, or osteoarthritis, or unsuccessful previous surgery.
Your normal elbow joint is comprised of two bones—the humerus in the upper arm and the ulna in the lower arm. When the joint is significantly damaged, surgery is usually required. The artificial elbow joint has two stems of metal, joined by a metal and plastic hinge to allow movement. While most total elbow replacements are successful, surgery can involve significant bone removal, nerve and blood vessel damage, dislocation of the artificial joint, allergic reaction to the new joint and joint loosening over time.
Although the prognosis of elbow replacement surgery is good, physical therapy can be the missing piece to help you regain strength and full range of motion in your arm. Typically, individuals wearing a splint begin physical therapy a few weeks later than those who do not wear a splint.
Initially, you will perform gentle motion exercises. When appropriate, strength training can begin, targeting muscles in and around the elbow to help you regain normal movement. Exercises and treatments may include
light grip strengthening to start
• active elbow and wrist exercises in the second phase
• flexibility techniques for wrist, elbow and shoulder
• strategies to relieve pain, inflammation or swelling
When a physical therapy program is planned early on, mobility can significantly improve—with use of the new elbow—as soon as 12 weeks after surgery. Although full recovery can take up to a year, the process is generally much more effective when physical therapy is a consistent part of therapy.

Tom Willemann

Tom Willemann

Tom Willemann is a premier physical therapist based out of Bergen County, New Jersey. He holds an MS in physical therapy from the University of Miami, is credentialed in the world-renowned McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT), and holds an OCS (Orthopedic Clinical Specialist) certification. As of 2018, there are approximately 14,000 ABPTS certified specialists in the nation and less than 400 of them are located in the state of New Jersey. Tom is the owner and director of Apex Orthopedic Rehabilitation in Paramus. He opened the clinic, which specializes in spine and sports injury prevention, in 2004 after many years of experience in the field. Tom’s caring interest in others and his strong belief in continuity of care, combined with his clinic’s ability to find solutions for the most difficult orthopedic problems, have earned Apex Orthopedic Rehabilitation its excellent reputation with patients and medical professionals in northeastern New Jersey and beyond. A true “family man,” Tom takes pride in his clinic’s warm and welcoming environment.
Tom Willemann

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