The most common cause of elbow arthritis is wear and tear over time, but dislocation and fractures may make you more susceptible.
Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative arthritis, can cause the articular cartilage, which acts as a shock absorber between the bones in the joint, to wear out, causing pain, stiffness and difficulty with daily activities. As the condition worsens, the pain may interfere with sleep. Arthritis may also develop many years after a severe strain, dislocation, ligament tear or fracture of the elbow.
The upper extremity subspecialists at Lancaster Orthopedic Group can usually diagnose elbow osteoarthritis based on a review of your medical history, a description of your symptoms, and standard X-rays. X-rays can help your doctor see how much articular cartilage is left in the joint and whether any loose fragments of cartilage or bone are present.
In the early stages of elbow arthritis, conservative treatments include rest, elbow splints, anti-inflammatory medications and corticosteroid injections to relieve pain and swelling, and modification of your activities. Stretching exercises may also improve the range of motion in the elbow.
If conservative treatment fails to relieve the symptoms of elbow arthritis, your physician may recommend surgical treatment. There are several options for treating advanced osteoarthritis of the elbow, including elbow fusion (also called arthrodesis) and elbow joint replacement (known as total elbow arthroplasty), which replaces the elbow joint with artificial components.