Elbow Arthritis

bones forming the elbow joint
Picture of the bones forming the native elbow joint

Elbow arthritis is one of the common causes for elbow pain and stiffness. Although less common than the other joints like the hipknee and shoulder, the elbow joint can also undergo degeneration and result in elbow arthritis.

Types of Elbow Arthritis

There are many forms of elbow arthritis. Elbow arthritis due to overuse ‘wear and tear’ is called primary elbow osteoarthritis. The more common inflammatory arthritis is caused by inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. Post-traumatic elbow arthritis refers to those caused by a previous bad injury to the elbow like a previous fracture or dislocation.

Signs and Symptoms

Healthy Elbow Joint Without Arthritis
Healthy elbow joint with clear and distinct joint space

Patients with elbow arthritis typically complain of progressive and worsening elbow pain and stiffness. They will complain of aching after repeated use of the elbow. If the arthritis is due to inflammatory arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis, it can involve more than just one elbow joint and affect other joints like the shoulder, hip, knee and even the opposite elbow!

Treatment of Elbow Arthritis

Elbow Arthritis
Arthritic elbow with spur formation, degeneration and loss of joint space

Elbow arthritis, and its associated pain and disability, can be treated. The treatment will depend of the cause of the arthritis. Inflammatory arthritis, one of the commonest cause, can be controlled by medication, and only require surgery if medications does not help. Primary elbow osteoarthritis typically present with more stiffness and ‘impingement’, rather than pain, and do well with a minimally invasive procedure like an elbow arthroscopy. When arthritis is severe or when it fails simple treatment measures like physiotherapy and pain, a joint replacement is needed.

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