Patient Education

To help you understand and navigate through your orthopedic health decisions, we have created a patient education section. Please select from one of the categories below to learn more about your condition or procedure.
Osteoarthritis of the Elbow

Elbow arthritis is a condition that causes pain, inflammation, and stiffness in the elbow joint.

Common Symptoms

  • Pain when moving the elbow
  • Stiffness and limited range of motion
  • Swelling around the joint
  • Grating or locking sensation
  • Numbness in the ring and little fingers due to nerve compression

Cause & Anatomy

The main causes of elbow arthritis are:

  • Osteoarthritis due to wear and tear of cartilage over time or after an injury
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder that attacks joint linings
  • Post-traumatic arthritis following an elbow fracture or dislocation
  • Overuse from repetitive motions like throwing or manual labor

The elbow is a hinge joint formed by the humerus bone of the upper arm and the radius and ulna bones of the forearm. Cartilage covers the bone ends to allow smooth movement. In arthritis, this cartilage wears down, causing bone-on-bone friction and joint damage.


Elbow arthritis is diagnosed based on symptoms, medical history, physical exam findings like swelling and limited motion, and imaging tests like X-rays which show narrowed joint space and bone spurs.


Avoiding elbow injuries, maintaining muscle strength around the joint, proper conditioning for activities, and using correct technique can help prevent arthritis. Early treatment after an injury is also important.


Non-surgical treatments include activity modification, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, braces/splints, steroid injections, and platelet-rich plasma injections.


For severe arthritis unresponsive to conservative treatment, surgical options are:

  • Arthroscopy to remove loose debris and smooth joint surfaces
  • Synovectomy to remove inflamed joint lining
  • Joint replacement surgery (arthroplasty)
  • Joint fusion (arthrodesis) to permanently immobilize the joint


After elbow surgery, rehabilitation focuses on regaining range of motion, strength, and function through exercises and physical therapy. Bracing may be needed initially.


Is elbow arthritis common?
While not as common as knee or hip arthritis, elbow arthritis can occur, especially after injuries or with overuse.

What increases the risk?
Risk factors include older age, previous elbow injuries, occupations involving repetitive arm motions, and conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

Can elbow arthritis be cured?
There is no cure, but treatments aim to relieve pain, improve function, and slow progression.

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