What is Elbow Arthritis?
In general, arthritis describes joint destruction. Arthritis can be broken down into three broad types. Osteoarthritis (OA), which is the most common form, is when the smooth layer of cartilage breaks down and does not heal. Much less common than OA, inflammatory arthritis is an autoimmune attack on the cells that line the joints and tendons (synovial cells). Post-Traumatic arthritis is also called “wear and tear arthritis” as it occurs when persistent joint irregularities and joints remain unstable or loose and cause a loss of their cartilage.
Symptoms & Causes
The first symptom is typically a loss of motion, especially in extension. Patients report that they can’t “get their elbow out.” Pain at the end of flexion can also occur. Swelling, instability, and mechanical symptoms can also occur as the condition progresses. Numbness in the pinky and weakness in the hand can occur from compression of the ulnar nerve at the elbow.
Comprehensive arthritis care, NSAIDS, glucosamine, and elbow sleeves can all help the pain. Steroid injections can also help with the pain. However, none of these interventions will halt the progression of arthritis. Surgical therapies include arthroscopic or open capsule release and removal of loose bodies and heterotopic bone. They are aimed at increasing motion and decreasing symptoms. If these do not help, the ultimate surgical treatment for elbow arthritis is a total elbow replacement.
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