The elbow joint is referred to as a “hinge” joint.  It bends, straightens, extends—and offers a range of flexion up to 145 degrees.  Stiff elbow refers to those individuals who experience pain or problems when extending their elbow greater than 30 degrees.  There are many factors that may cause stiff elbow including arthritis of the elbow, post-traumatic injury, bicep tendon tear, infection, congenital and degenerative conditions.

Symptoms of Stiff Elbow

The major symptoms of stiff elbow are pain and loss of motion.  The onset of symptoms may be gradual or sudden, depending on the cause of the condition.  In most cases, the elbow will become inflamed and produce pain upon movement which will gradually worsen over time and cause stiffness.  When this occurs, the pain in the region will actually become less, however, movement will be very difficult.

Treatment for Frozen Elbow

Non-Surgical

There are several treatment options for people experiencing stiff elbow.  The goal in treatment is to provide the patient with a pain-free, functional and stable elbow.  This means gaining flexion and a degree of motion.  Physical therapy is usually the best course of treatment.  Working with a physical therapist, the patient will perform exercises and strengthening techniques to gain flexion, control and motion. Rest, anti-inflammatory medications, and splinting may also be used to help treat the condition.

Surgical

Elbow surgeries are recommended when other stiff elbow treatment alternatives are no longer working.  Elbow arthroscopic surgery is usually the best option.  During this procedure, Dr. Millett will make several small incisions and insert an arthroscope into the elbow joint.  This will allow him to identify loose bodies, fragments and damaged cartilage.  Recovery is usually about 3 months.

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