Elbow Dislocation

Last year, between Christmas and New Year, I went to BKB with riki couple for rock climbing and fell off from 3~4 meters to mat, face down, flat landing. Aft first I thought everything is OK, until I felt my right arm was not under control and saw the bones made an eerie shape at the elbow. Yes, everyone can tell it’s dislocated just on a sight… Surprisingly, I felt no pain at all at that time, just lost control of the arm.

Q: Isn’t there a rope to hang you from falling?
A: I was doing “bouldering”. It’s a kind of free climbing without ropes but with thick mats on the ground.

As it’s a rock climbing gym, my first thought was there must be someone who can fix my arm in 5 minutes, so was riki’s. However it turned out there isn’t such a superman. The manager called 911 then filled an accident form. In 5 minutes the ambulance arrived and we were taken to a hospital named Lutheran. I’ll never go to this hospital ever.

In the emergency room, I experienced how slow American’s “emergency room” could be. I waited 20 minutes just to start my paper work, waited 2 hours for the X-ray check, waited 3 hours for the physician to start working on my elbow. During all these 3 hours my elbow was dislocated and swelling, the pain level rose from almost nothing to I could barely help yelling. They said it was “change of shift” time so I had to wait a long time for X-ray. How was emergency room supposed to work? 2-hour dinner break and let patients die? I was seriously shocked by the sluggish process and stupid people in this hospital, when the “doctor” sit in front of a computer and typed 20 minutes, and when the “technician” sit beside the empty X-ray room and I was waiting outside for 15 minutes… I really couldn’t and still can’t believe how broken this hospital’s process is.

Anyway I left that hospital after 5 hours. The only “good” thing was they found I.V. was not strong enough for me to relax the muscles so they used morphine on me. My heart immediately felt some contraction at the second morphine flew into my vessels. And the pain went away in a few seconds. It was like someone was counting down: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and my pain level dropped with it. Quite impressive.

4 days later I went to Beth Israel for an orthopedist followup. It went pretty smoothy. They cut off the splints, did another X-ray and gave me a new device to immobilize my arm. The joint recovered well, though I had lots of gross blisters around the elbow. I guess the initial splints were over tight.

I lived a resting life for about one week. Laying on couch, elevating my arm (sometimes like a Young Pioneer of China), watching movies and TV shows, ordering food online and picking deliveries in underwear… 3 movies a day really fed me up. I even lost 3 pounds after this week.

And in this “lefty” week I found something really difficult to do with one hand only, such as buttoning up jeans, twisting open a bottle, wearing earbuds, etc. And most things are, surprisingly, pretty doable with one hand. I went back to work today and can type with 2 hands perfectly fine now, yeah!


  1. Greetings! I did the same thing: bouldering, then BAM!, ambulance, ER, … and long months of recovery. I was able to climb again about 6-7 months after the injury. It takes FOREVER to heal. I am approaching 10 months post-injury, range of motion is still not perfect, still hurts to bend, but at least I can climb. I hope you are doing well. Please post updates in English :)

    1. Hi,

      Seems like I am lucky, I went back climbing 1 months ago (2 full months after injury), can fully bend and straight. Of couse there’s still a lot of restriction for climbing, I have to climb a lot more gentle and static and still cannot do hard sporty moves, but definitely can climb 10-11s (I climb 12s before). Still, I am so happy with my life with climbing! Here is my case, I fell from a bouldering topout and dislocated, the ambulance guy put my elbow back before I got on the ambulance, in a cast for a week, and then with a sling but the doctor saids sling is not necessary so I only wear when I go outside or sleep. Active ROM exercise everyday since my cast is removed (still doing right now). I start stretching my elbow after 4 weeks, I think it help to get straight. Took about 6 week I can fully bent and straight slowly. I also did wrist exercise and gripping exercise when the cast is off. From the 4th week, I bought a 5 lb dumbell and start to train my bicep. Gradually increased to 10lb now. From 6th week, I start trained my tricep by pushing the wall, and now I can bearly do pushup. Right now, my ligament still pain in valgus stress, and not feeling as well after climbing, I ice the ligament every time after climb and is getting better obviously. Hope this information helps, and enjoy climbing!


  2. Hi, how is it going.
    I just got a elbow dislocation last Thursday.
    Same place…. by bouldering at bkb….

    So sad I wait for the outdoor climbing season for a long time and shit happens.
    How is your recovery right now?
    And what kind of rehabilitation you are doing?
    Are you back to climbing yet?
    It woud be great if you have any suggestion for me.

    Take care,


    1. @Jason Sorry to know you had a similar accident as me.. I’m doing OK. It has been 3 months now and I’ve to say this recovered slower than I expected. My elbow still has a limited range of motion now, can’t go fully straight or curl as much as the good one.

      There are a few phases in the recovery by my experiences:
      1. A few days of fully immobilization. I believe you got some plaster on your elbow now. I was in this phase for 4 days. It felt terrible… but you should get an orthopedist appointment soon and take the plaster off.

      2. A few weeks of half immobilization. I was given a bracer after the plaster was taken off. In the next few weeks you should use the bracer to immobilize the arm as much as you can. It should only be taken off during bath. And my elbow was swollen badly at that time. There is no good method to treat the swelling other than R.I.C.E. Elevate your arm and use ICE on it as much as you can.

      Btw I also had bad blisters after taking off the blaster. That was not a very common symptom but was not a big trouble either. I found a kind of Vitamin E ointment from GNC helped a bit about blisters.

      3. I was asked to take an MRI, and found there were 2 small fractures besides the dislocation.. I removed the bracer from the 8th week and started to do physical therapy to recover the range of motion. It’s actually quite painful. They just push your arm back and forth to extend the range. The range was improving but slow. I suggest you to do lots of exercising/pushing at home too, hundreds of times a day.

      Hope you get well soon. Feel free to drop me emails weiwei9 At gmail.com.

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