An Overview of Elbow Arthritis
Arthritis of the elbow occurs when there is an inflammation in the joint, typically caused when the cartilage surface of the elbow becomes damaged or worn. Similar to arthritis in other areas of the body, elbow arthritis can be the result of a degenerative disease, aging, general wear and tear, trauma, or a prior injury that existed in the area. One of the best ways to prevent elbow arthritis is to avoid injury to the joint. Elbow arthritis is more common in men and typically occurs in patients 50 years of age or older.
Symptoms of Elbow Arthritis
Elbow arthritis symptoms range from mild to severe. In most cases, the symptoms will begin gradually and become worse over time. Elbow joint pain will become noticeable early on. Later, swelling in the elbow area, stiffness, joint locking, and limited movement are all common symptoms associated with arthritis of the elbow. Additionally, patients may notice numbness in their ring finger and pinky finger due to the swelling in the elbow joint.
Diagnosis of Elbow Arthritis
Dr. Millett will perform a comprehensive physical exam of the elbow that includes assessing range of motion, strength, and tenderness. Additionally, X-ray, CT, or MRI may be ordered.
Treatments for Arthritis of the Elbow
There are treatment options for arthritis of the elbow. Rest is the most important recommendation. For individuals suffering from elbow arthritis, overuse of the joint almost always worsens the symptoms. Many patients can live with the symptoms for years and will only need to take pain medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs and/or receive cortisone shots to help relieve elbow arthritis symptoms. Although, the effects of injects are temporary, they can provide pain relief for many months. Physical therapy exercises also help For those who experience chronic elbow arthritis symptoms and whose arthritis continues to worsen, surgery is available.
Arthritis in the very early stages can be controlled and treated with arthroscopic techniques, where small incisions are made in the elbow to perform the surgery. This surgery can be done on an out-patient basis, and recovery is reasonably quick. During this procedure, Dr. Peter Millett will trim out and remove the inflamed and degenerative tissue and loose bone within the joint. Arthroscopic treatment for elbow arthritis will not cure the arthritic condition, but it will prolong more drastic measures and relieve many of the symptoms for an extended period of time.
In more severe elbow arthritis conditions where elbow arthroscopic surgery may not be effective, joint supplementation or joint replacement may be recommended. These procedures have a very good reputation for offering pain relief, and often will restore motion. During these procedures, the joint surfaces are surgically replaced with prosthetic hardware that resembles the native joint. After the procedure the elbow will be immobilized for 4 weeks. Lifelong weightlifting restrictions will be necessary in order to protect the fixation of the implant.
Dr. Millett will need to perform a thorough examination of the elbow and determine the cause of the arthritis before a treatment plan is made. The recommended treatment plan will take into account patient goals and preferences in order to ensure the course of treatment is the right one for the patient.
For additional details on common elbow injuries, including arthritis of the elbow, please contact the orthopedic office of Dr. Peter Millett.