Elbow Arthritis: Treatment and Symptoms

02 November 2019

Elbow arthritis, while less common than arthritis in other joints, can be no less debilitating, causing painful symptoms and potentially significant disability.

There are three broad types of elbow arthritis:

Rheumatoid Arthritis – an inflammatory condition affecting the joint linings which can damage bone and soft tissue. Often experienced in both elbows simultaneously.

Osteoarthritis – damage to cartilage, causing bone-on-bone contact, bringing pain and potential fragmentation.

Post-traumatic arthritis – damage to the elbow brought about by trauma or injury, which may have occurred many years earlier.

There are three broad types of elbow arthritis: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteoarthritis & Post-traumatic arthritis.

Elbow Arthritis Symptoms and Diagnosis

Your doctor will assess the following signs of arthritis in the elbow:

  • Elbow stiffness
  • Limited range of motion and/or locking of the joint
  • Tenderness and/or pain
  • Grinding sensations
  • Joint instability


Elbow Arthritis Treatment

There are a number of elbow pain treatment options. Treatments range from non-invasive techniques and medications to surgical correction.

Initial treatments may include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Activity modifications
  • Gentle exercise
  • Application of ice and/or heat
  • Physiotherapy

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis may require more aggressive drug treatment. Localised injections of cortisone may be prescribed to assist with inflammation.

If surgery is indicated, your doctor will explain the available options. These may include:

  • Arthroscopy – removal of bone spurs, loose fragments or a portion of the diseased joint lining.
  • Synovectomy – removal of any diseased joint lining (synovium). Often used for rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Osteotomy – removal of part of the bone to relieve pressure on the joint. Often used for osteoarthritis.
  • Arthroplasty – joint replacement. Usually reserved for older patients or patients with advanced rheumatoid arthritis.

Mr Soong Chua is a specialist orthopaedic surgeon. Call to arrange an initial consultation in his East Melbourne rooms. He is also a consultant orthopaedic specialist at both the Austin and Box Hill Hospitals and is available for consultation in the public system.

Image by Анастасия Гепп from Pixabay

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