Physicians define dislocation as when the surfaces of any  joint separate from each other. Elbow dislocations usually occur after a traumatic impact, such as an automobile accident or heavy fall rather than simple overuse. In the case of a total dislocation, the joint surfaces completely separate from each other, as opposed to a partial dislocation, in which the joint only partly separates (Subluxation).

The elbow joint consists of three different bones. The upper arm bone, the humerus, and the two lower bones of the forearm, the radius and ulna. Ligaments connect each of these bones together to create the properly aligned elbow joint.