Do You Have Chronic Pain And Stiffness In Your Elbow? Here’s What You Need To Know About Elbow Osteoarthritis

If you have chronic elbow pain along with a feeling of your elbow joint sticking or grinding whenever you move it, you may be suffering from osteoarthritis of the elbow. Osteoarthritis is caused when the soft cartilage between bones breaks down, causing the bones to rub against one another without any form of cushioning.

When osteoarthritis affects your elbow, it's usually caused by either overuse that wears down the cartilage or a traumatic injury that damages it. People who play baseball or practice gymnastics or yoga are more likely to develop osteoarthritis of the elbow since these activities place a lot of wear on the cartilage cushioning the elbow joint. If you think that your elbow pain may be caused by osteoarthritis, read on to learn more about its symptoms and how you can treat it.

What Are the Symptoms of Elbow Osteoarthritis?

Elbow osteoarthritis causes pain whenever you're moving your arm since the bone in your upper arm will grind against the two bones in your lower arm whenever you're flexing or extending your elbow. Small bone fragments can break off and become lodged in your elbow joint as the bones grind against one another, and this can result in a feeling of stiffness in your elbow whenever you're moving your arm. You may experience a reduced range of motion in your elbow due to a combination of the pain that you experience while moving your arm and the bone fragments trapped in the joint capsule.

How Do You Treat Elbow Osteoarthritis?

The first-line treatment approach for elbow osteoarthritis is rest and taking over-the-counter pain medication. When your bones grind against one another when you're flexing your elbow, it can result in inflammation. Over-the-counter pain medication helps reduce inflammation, which reduces the elbow pain that you're experiencing. Resting your elbow allows your bones to heal, reducing the chance that bone fragments will splinter off the ends and become lodged in your elbow joint.

If your elbow pain is preventing you from participating in activities that you enjoy or is reducing your quality of life, then you may need to consider surgery. Arthroscopic surgery is often used to reduce elbow pain due to osteoarthritis. During the procedure, an orthopedic surgeon will make an incision near your elbow and insert a small camera through it in order to see your elbow joint. The surgeon will remove any bone fragments that are lodged in the joint and shave away some of the bones and connective tissues near the joint in order to reduce the amount of bone-on-bone grinding that occurs when you flex your elbow.

You can also consider elbow replacement surgery in order to alleviate your pain. This surgery replaces your arthritic joint with an artificial one, which provides cushioning for your bones and prevents them from rubbing against one another when you move your arm. Joint replacement surgery is an effective method of relieving elbow pain, but it has a downside — the artificial joint isn't very strong. Activities that place a considerable amount of stress on your elbow, like performing gymnastics, may damage the artificial joint. If you have your elbow joint replaced, you'll have to limit these activities in order to avoid damaging the replacement.

If you think that you have elbow osteoarthritis, schedule an appointment with your doctor for an X-ray. The damage that osteoarthritis causes to the bones in your arm is easily visible on an X-ray, which will allow your doctor to make a diagnosis. Afterward, your doctor can help you decide if conservative treatment with rest and pain medications or surgery is your best option for relieving the elbow pain that you're experiencing.