I think the hardest part after fracturing my olecranon SEVEN months and THREE weeks ago, was not the injury itself, which was annoying, but the residual weakness. This weakness has not merely affected my arm, but also my chest and back. ONE month after having had my metal work removed, it’s finally safe to start rebuilding the muscles on my right arm and shoulder. This was MUCH harder than I expected!
Regaining arm strength after elbow fracture
Firstly, the important thing to realise is that, dus to the significant lack of use as the olecranon fracture healed, the power/strength in your tricep muscle, heck the whole arm, will have been utterly decimated. That is NOT an exaggeration. It was only in the last week or so before I went in for the second operation that I was finally
beginning able to put on a seated, when in the passenger seat without difficulty, or pain. I still remain shocked that of my day-to-day activities, the passenger seat belt has remained the most difficult. Possibility as I can’t compensate really. Lying down remains an annoyance, but I have compensated with my LEFT arm/just drop onto the bed. But there hasn’t been anything other than to pull the Seat belt carefully and slowly.
Going back to the gym
I was very lucky to find a machine – a TechnoGym model – using ropes/cords attached to the weights. This gives more free movement, akin to using free weights, but at the same time provides more stability and safety of the injured arm than simple triceps extension exercises using a hand weight
Whole limb work out
Adduction and abduction exercises are very important to keeping the shoulder muscles in good condition. But even with effective physiotherapy, it’s likely, as I’ve found, that your shoulder muscles will have weakend slightly. Maintaining deltoid and rotator cuff muscles are crucial to preventing developing other issues, such as shoulder impingement and rotator cuff dysfunction.
I have been able to feel my LEFT shoulder movements, when using the weights, are not as smooth as my RIGHT shoulder, so large movements, involving many muscles groups, as with the above abduction exercises will hopeful be effective in addressing this – only time will tell!
Back to the back
The muscles of to my back, particularly trapezius and lat. dorsi, which help you do things like rowing and pull ups have also weakened. Seated rows, have been effective at rebuilding those muscles. But in order to prevent in an imbalance occurring I use my affected LEFT arm individually, at 2kg and then increase to 4kh the weight, and use both arms. Exercises like this are not about straining and moving iron, just about slowly and carefully rebuilding strength. I know in time, it WILL come, but the loss of arm strength, and inability to slam the seated row backwards with a large weight is quite…difficulty at times,es, given I used to row competitively at Uni!
Arm strength exercises after elbow fracture are a vital part of returning to full health after a fractured olecranon. The difficulty is that progress is VERY slow, but will be even slowly if you try to rush things. I have found I was particularly grumpy coming back from the gym only able to move 2kg.
I think I was partially ashamed. BUT by keeping at it, keeping up the small weight reps, I’ve begun to see an improvement.
Some days things are harder than others, tell someone about it, don’t just grit your teeth. My girlfriend was much more helpful when she understood how…weak and annoyed I felt. But also be careful…
But imperative to still be careful – esp if like me the stitches are dissolvable, as they will take 8-12 weeks to be completely resolve, and can be a potential source of weakness to the wound if you happen to trip…
I’ll be honest, I was terrified I’d done something to the fracture, it was a good blow, falling onto soft ground, but still went with a thump. The opening was RIGHT OVER THE FRACTURE SITE #terror! But a couple of steristrips to close the wound and everything seems ok. Still have full range of movement, and no pain when going to back to the gym, but still, had an hour or so of real worry – and now a bruise on my scar!
Top tip: post-op, when being discharged, ask the nurses if can you have some spare steri-strips…just in case 😉