Static progressive versus dynamic splinting for posttraumatic elbow stiffness: a systematic review of 232 patients

Arch Orthop Trauma Surg. 2015 May;135(5):613-7. doi: 10.1007/s00402-015-2199-5. Epub 2015 Mar 13.


Introduction: The elbow is prone to stiffness after trauma. To regain functional elbow motion, several conservative and surgical treatment options are available. Nonoperative treatment includes physical therapy, intra-articular injections with corticosteroids, and a static progressive or dynamic splinting program. The objective of this study was to perform a comprehensive review of the literature to evaluate the best current evidence for nonoperative treatment options for posttraumatic elbow stiffness.

Methods: We performed a search of all studies on nonoperative treatment for elbow stiffness in human adults. All articles describing nonoperative treatment of elbow stiffness, written in the English, German, French or Dutch language, including human adult patients and with the functional outcome reported were included in this study.

Results: Eight studies (including 232 patients) met our eligibility criteria and were included for data analysis and pooling. These studies included one randomized controlled trial and seven retrospective cohort studies. Static progressive splinting was evaluated in 160 patients. The average pre-splinting range of motion of all elbows was 72°, which improved by 36° after splinting to an average post-splinting arc of motion of 108°. Dynamic splinting was evaluated in 72 patients with an average pre-splinting range of motion of 63°. The average improvement was 37° to an average post-splinting arc of motion of 100°.

Conclusions: Both dynamic orthoses and static progressive splinting show good results for the treatment of elbow stiffness, regardless of etiology. The choice for one treatment over the other is based on the preference of the surgeon and patient. We recommend to continue nonoperative treatment with dynamic or static bracing for 12 months or until patients stop making progression in range of elbow motion.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / pharmacology
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Adult
  • Elbow Joint / drug effects
  • Elbow Joint / injuries*
  • Elbow Joint / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intra-Articular / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orthotic Devices
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Range of Motion, Articular / drug effects
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Splints*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones