Elbow Arthritis

What is Elbow Arthritis?

Elbow arthritis occurs when the cartilage surface of the elbow becomes worn out or gets damaged. This could be a result of an elbow dislocation or fracture or degeneration of cartilages in the elbow due to age factor. Usually, osteoarthritis happens in those joints that bear the weight of our body parts, such as the hip and the knee.

Because the elbow has well matched joint surfaces and strong stable ligaments, your elbow can withstand large forces that act on it, and still be stable. Therefore, the possibility of elbow arthritis is quite rare.


The symptoms of elbow arthritis are:

  •  Loss of range of motion in the elbow
  • Pain in the elbow region
  • Grating or locking sensation in the elbow
  • Swelling of elbow joints
  • Numbness in ring finger and small finger, in later stages
  • Tingling sensation in the elbow


The probable causes of elbow arthritis may be:

  • Fracture of the elbow
  • Dislocation of the elbow
  • Surgical reconstruction of the elbow joint
  • Loss of cartilage in the elbow
  • Injured ligaments in the elbow
  • Excessive forces on elbow, as in case of professional sportsmen and sportswomen


You could be in the risky zone of elbow arthritis if you are:

  • Middle-aged man with occupations that involve repetitive tasks in the hands like hammering
  • Hand fractures or injuries to your elbow in the past
  • Have a family history of the disorder



The best way to stay safe and protect your elbows from arthritis is to avoid injuries to the joints of the elbow. If you are a professional sportsman or sportswoman, do bear in mind to maintain muscle strength around the elbow. If you meet with minor injuries on the elbow, consult your doctor immediately, because arthritis worsens with time.
Other prevention measures for elbow arthritis are:

  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by leading an active life
  • Staying fit
  • Controlling diabetes
  • Performing regular mild exercises for the hands

How is it diagnosed?

Following methods are used to diagnose elbow arthritis:


How is it treated?

At Medanta, your doctor would recommend treatments to your elbow arthritis, based on the extent of damage, your medical history, age, health and the results of the X-Ray diagnosis. Based on these factors, your treatment at Medanta could comprise o..

  • Pharmacotherapy

    If you are still in initial stages of elbow arthritis and your pains are mild, you might be recommended to have a medication therapy. This could include oral drugs to reduce pain, modifications of your physical activities and physical therapy. Typically, some steroidal medication could be used to treat symptoms. The effects of these injections could be temporary. They provide enormous relief from pain, until additional treatment is administered. In another technique called viscosupplementation, substances are injected to the joints of the elbow, to improve the quality of the fluids in the joint

  • Surgical therapy

    If drugs are insufficient to treat your advanced stages of elbow arthritis, you may be advised for an elbow surgery. If the arthritis is seen on an X-Ray, the joints in your elbows could have already been damaged significantly. If the damage is less, your surgeon could treat you with minimally invasive surgeries. But this is limited only to those with initial stages of arthritis. It involves removal of loose elements or degenerative tissues in the elbow joints. Also, irregular surfaces can be smoothened out in the process. Small incisions are done and the recovery from the surgery may be rapid. If, on the other hand, the joints have worn out completely, it is only a joint replacement that would cause complete relief. In these surgeries, there are many options to choose from.
    If you are suffering mainly due to loss of motion, it could be treated surgically, by releasing contractures at the elbow joint and smoothing out the surface at the joint. Sometimes, a new surface made using the tissues from other parts of the patient may also be made. These procedures are known to relieve symptoms and pains for years.

When do I contact the doctor?

Consult your doctor if you feel that you have lost your range of motion in the elbow area or have other symptoms like grating sensation, swelling and numbness in the elbows.

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