Elbow Arthritis

Georgia Hand, Shoulder, and Elbow

Experiencing prolonged pain in your elbow can make accomplishing daily tasks seem like an impossible feat. If you would like high-quality pain relief, schedule an appointment with our elbow experts at Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow in Marietta and Atlanta, Georgia today!

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Arthritis in Elbow

Elbow arthritis occurs when the cartilage that protects your elbow wears down or is damaged. Damage can be caused by age, overuse, or injury. Arthritis of the elbow can cause severe pain and affect your quality of life.  

Types of Elbow Arthritis and Their Causes

There are several types of elbow arthritis. Below is a detailed list of the different types and what causes them.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis This is an autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to attack your joint linings. This condition usually affects both elbow joints. As rheumatoid arthritis progresses, it gradually destroys soft tissues and bones.
  • Osteoarthritis — Occurs when the cartilage that protects your bones begin to deteriorate. This results in your bones painfully rubbing against each other. If you have loose fragments within your joint, it can accelerate degeneration.
  • Post-traumatic arthritis — A type of osteoarthritis that is caused by an injury. The damage causes arthritis to develop quickly in the joint.
  • Psoriatic arthritis Occurs in conjunction with skin disease and can cause inflammation and pain.
  • Lupus-related arthritis — Is another disease that causes an attack on your joints.
  • Juvenile arthritis — Affects children that are 16 years or younger. Doctors are not sure what causes this condition.

What Are the Symptoms of Elbow Arthritis?

Symptoms of elbow arthritis can include the following:

  • Pain when forearm rotation or extending your arm
  • Instability
  • Swelling/inflammation
  • Difficulty/inability to fully extend or bend your joint
  • Stiffness
  • Locking
  • Clicking sensation

How Is Arthritis in the Elbow Joint Diagnosed?

To make an accurate diagnosis of elbow arthritis, your doctor will first ask you to describe your symptoms. Your doctor will also perform a physical examination.

During your physical exam, your doctor will move your elbow joint and examine your range of motion. They will also look for signs of redness, swelling, and tenderness around the joint.

Additionally, the following diagnostic imaging tests may also be ordered:

  • An X-ray (often shows if there are any loose bodies, bone spurs, joint space narrowing, and more)
  • MRI
  • Ultrasound

There are other sources that can cause pain in your elbow including sprains, strains, dislocations, and fractures. It is important to see a medical professional. If left undiagnosed and/or untreated, your condition may intensify.

Conservative Treatment for Arthritis of the Elbow

At Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow, we are dedicated to using non-surgical techniques for elbow arthritis pain relief, including:

  • Activity modification
  • Applying heat or icing your elbow
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Elbow braces/splints to reduce swelling
  • Physical therapy
  • Cortisone injections

Surgical Treatment for Arthritis of the Elbow

If non-surgical methods do not decrease pain, your doctor may recommend elbow surgery as a last resort. This could include the following procedures:

  • Synovectomy — Your surgeon will remove damaged pieces of the synovium, which is a thin layer of tissue that surrounds your joint.
  • Arthroscopy — Elbow arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that can be used for treating the early stages of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Your surgeon will make a few small incisions around your joint and then use small instruments to remove pieces of cartilage, scar tissue, bone, bone spurs, or loose bodies.
  • Osteotomy — During this procedure, your surgeon will relieve pressure on your elbow joint by removing part of the bone.
  • Arthroplasty — During this procedure, your surgeon will remove the diseased cartilage and implant an artificial joint. An elbow replacement (total joint replacement) is usually reserved for those over the age of 60 or those in the advanced stages of rheumatoid arthritis.

Recovery After Elbow Surgery

Recovery time will vary depending on individual factors and the type of procedure performed. After your surgery, you may have to keep your arm in a cast or splint for several weeks. You may also begin physical therapy to help you regain your strength and range of motion.

If you are experiencing elbow pain, do not hesitate to contact Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow. For your convenience, we have offices located in Marietta and Atlanta, GA. Schedule an appointment with us today!

Medically reviewed by

Randall Alexander, MD

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Plastic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon