Elbow arthritis refers to the inflammation and degeneration of the elbow joint, which can cause pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion. This condition can be caused by injury, overuse, or natural aging processes, and can significantly impact a person’s daily activities. Elbow arthritis may also be a result of underlying conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. However, with advancements in surgical techniques and treatments, patients suffering from elbow arthritis can find relief and improve their quality of life.
Diagnosis of elbow arthritis is made using clinical examination, history and investigations. Initially an xray will be performed and if indicated a CT or MRI may also be required to help direct treatment.
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
NSAIDs are a class of medications that work to control symptoms of pain, swelling, and stiffness, commonly used to treat conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. They work by blocking the production of certain chemicals in the body that cause inflammation.
NSAIDs can be used in combination with painkillers to provide more comprehensive relief for patients. The typical timeframe for NSAIDs to start working is within 1-2 hours after taking the medication, and their effects can last for 4-8 hours. There are various forms of NSAIDs available, such as ibuprofen, which can be taken orally in tablet form or applied topically in the form of a gel or cream.
Steroid injections are used in the treatment of elbow arthritis to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. The benefits of steroid injections include quick pain relief and reduced inflammation, but they are associated with potential risks.
Your doctor may recommend elbow arthroscopy if you have a painful condition that does not respond to nonsurgical treatment
Common arthroscopic procedures include:
- Removal of loose bodies (loose cartilage and bone fragments)
- Release of scar tissue to improve range of motion
- Treatment of osteoarthritis (wear and tear arthritis)
- Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (inflammatory arthritis)
- Treatment of osteochondritis dissecans (activity related damage to the capitellum portion of the humerus seen in throwers or gymnasts)
Elbow replacement is the last resort treatment for pain and disability of the elbow due to arthritis. It involves replacing the damaged bone and cartilage with metal and plastic implants to improve movement and minimise pain.