Elbow Arthritis

Elbow arthritis occurs when the cartilage surface of the elbow becomes worn out or damaged. It is commonly due to normal wear and tear from old age or activity, following fractures or injuries around the elbow or inflammatory disorders.

a skeletal image of a arm joint

Some of the common symptoms of elbow arthritis include:

  • Pain and stiffness
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Feeling a “grating” or “locking” sensation
  • Swelling 
  • Numbness in the ring and small finger due to nerve irritation



Elbow arthritis occurs due to a number of reasons:


Fractures around the elbow, especially if they involve the joint surfaces, dislocations of the elbow, and injury to the ligaments resulting in an unstable elbow can contribute to osteoarthritis. 


Patients who have never had an elbow injury may have gotten elbow arthritis from work or activities that require placing more stress on the joint than it can bear. 


Inflammatory conditions
Autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and metabolic conditions, such as gout, can result in elbow arthritis.



Your orthopaedic specialist will order an X-ray to see the severity of the osteoarthritis and to make the diagnosis. Other tests, e.g., blood tests may also be ordered to check for the underlying cause of the arthritis.



Treatment options depend on the severity of the disease, and the patient’s overall medical condition. Non-surgical treatments are most recommended for early stages of osteoarthritis. This include taking pain and anti-inflammatory medications, going through physical therapy, and modifying activities. 


Surgery is only recommended if the pain from your arthritis causes disability and conservative treatments have failed. In early arthritis, arthroscopic (keyhole) surgery, to debride inflamed tissue, remove unstable cartilage fragments or loose bodies, and burr down bone spurs, can be performed to improve symptoms and range of motion.


In severe arthritis, total elbow replacement may be required. In this procedure, your orthopaedic surgeon removes the damaged cartilage and bone, and replaces its with an artificial joint (prosthesis) to restore the function of the elbow. 


Every case is different; hence it is best to consult an orthopaedic specialist for an accurate diagnosis so that you can obtain the best treatment option that is most suitable for you. Reach out to us today if you suspect you are suffering from elbow arthritis and let us help you enjoy a better quality of life.