What are the treatment options for elbow arthritis?

Elbow arthritis is painful and debilitating. That is why it is important to learn more about treatment options.

How many times a day do you move your elbow?

Whenever you pick something up, keep something down, eat food or even wear your clothes, you are moving your elbow. It’s impossible to count the number of times you move your elbow.

But, imagine if you suffered excruciating pain each time you moved your elbow. Changes the picture completely, doesn’t it? Excruciating pain in the elbow is common in people suffering from elbow arthritis.


Arthritic elbow may be caused by a number of factors, like:

  • Osteoarthritis: The cartilage between the joints wears away, making the bones rub against each other painfully.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: This affects the linings of the joint, destroying the bones and the soft tissues.
  • Injury: A trauma or injury in the past could destroy the cartilage in the elbow. Gradually, this leads to the development of post-traumatic arthritis.
  • Infection: Bacterial infection can affect the synovial fluid leading to the development of arthritis. Sites that are most vulnerable to such infection include the elbow, knee, hip, ankle, wrist, shoulder and the pelvis.

Elbow arthritis may be indicated by pain and limited range of motion. Sufferers may also experience grating and clicking sensation in the elbow.

As the condition progresses, swelling may occur. Some patients also experience numbness in the ring and small finger.

Treatment options:

Treatment for elbow arthritis depends on the severity of the condition.

Non-surgical treatment options:

  • Restricted motion: Osteoarthritis is the direct result of overuse of the joints. Therefore, limiting repetitive actions (related to a job or sports activities) and relieving stress on the joints can relieve pain.
  • Pain management: Patients suffering from acute pain may find temporary pain relief through painkillers like Ibuprofen and Acetiminophen. Chronic pain and disability that is not relieved by other treatment options may need corticosteroid injections in the joints.
  • Physical therapies: Gentle exercises along with heat and cold applications are also prescribed. Splints and other assistive devices may also be recommended.

Unfortunately, unlike certain forms of arthritis like arthritis of the hip, complications associated with elbow arthritis had not been investigated extensively in the past.

Therefore, the proper management of conditions associated with it was also ill defined. However, new studies are emerging all the time to help patients deal with arthritis.

Surgical treatment options:

In acute cases of elbow arthritis, where pain or the loss of activity interferes with normal life, surgery may be resorted to, in order to relieve pain and improve mobility in the elbow.

Surgical options include arthroscopy, synovectomy and arthroplasty. The exact surgical procedure depends on the type of arthritis, age, movement expectations and requirements of activity.

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