A stiff elbow can be caused by a couple different things. It could be the result of a injury, such as a fall, and it could also result from a certain condition such as arthritis. Having a stiff elbow likely means that you are unable to move the elbow as you normally would. It makes it difficult to perform simple, everyday tasks. You likely cannot bend or straighten the elbow to pick up objects or rotate your palms to do things like wash your hands.
Here are different methods that your surgeon may recommend for treating a stiff elbow:
Often, your specialist will have you begin by seeing a hand/upper extremity therapist. The therapist will guide you through exercises and stretching methods. He/she may also make you a splint to wear.
If therapy does not work, your surgeon may recommend having surgery. Surgery would involve removing the tight structures that are stopping the elbow from moving. This surgery could be performed through a cut (incision) or with elbow arthroscopy, which is a procedure during which a tiny camera is used to look inside the elbow. If you have surgery, you will still need therapy afterward to ensure that your elbow will work again properly once healed. After surgery, most patients are able to return to normal.
It is important to note that all surgeries come with risks. This includes potential damage to nerves or blood vessels. It could also mean that your stiffness returns.
Visiting a hand surgeon about your elbow stiffness is important. It will give you the opportunity to discuss all of these treatment options with a specialist. Find a hand surgeon near you, and visit www.HandCare.org to learn more about injuries and conditions related to the hand, wrist, arm, elbow and shoulder.