Published: Nov. 11, 2010
Updated: Dec. 28, 2010
Elbow arthritis may cause pain when the elbow is bent, straightened, or when the arm is carrying a heavy object like a briefcase or a suitcase.
Symptoms may be gradual in their onset, beginning with stiffness. Occasionally, patients may experience “locking” or “catching” of the elbow such that it gets stuck during motion, causing sudden pain. This is associated with “loose bodies” which are pieces of cartilage which are free within the joint.
The most common cause of elbow arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis, though osteoarthritis and injury can cause arthritis in the elbow also:
Direct trauma or injury to the elbow such as from a fracture or dislocation can lead to cartilage damage in the elbow joint.
Elbow arthritis is characterized by chronic pain, increased pain as the forearm is rotated or the arm is flexed or extended, and pain that persists during inactivity.
Other symptoms include:
A physical examination and review of your medical history will help your doctor determine the diagnosis.
Often, x-rays are performed to help distinguish between various forms of arthritis and to rule out underlying conditions like broken bones.
Often modifying activities, taking anti-inflammatory medicines, and physical therapy helps to manage pain and other symptoms. Occasionally, a cortisone injection may be helpful. When nonsurgical treatments are no longer effective, surgery may be considered.
If a surgical procedure is necessary, you and your doctor will work together to determine what method is best for you.
Duke Orthopaedics treats elbow arthritis at locations throughout North Carolina, including Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill.
At Duke Orthopaedics, our doctors often uses arthroscopic debridement of the elbow to treat elbow arthritis. The following video demonstrates this procedure.