Osteoarthritis of the elbow occurs when the cartilage surface of the elbow is worn out or is damaged. This can happen because of a previous injury such as elbow dislocation or fracture. Most commonly, however, it is the result of a normal wearing away of the joint cartilage from age and activity. Symptoms include:
A doctor can usually diagnose osteoarthritis of the elbow based on symptoms and standard x-rays.
Treatment options depend on the stage of the disease, prior history, what the patient desires, overall medical condition, and the results of x-rays and other tests. For the early stages of osteoarthritis of the elbow, the most common treatment includes oral medications to reduce or alleviate pain, physical therapy, and activity modification.
Corticosteroid injections may also be recommended. Although the effects of injections are temporary, they can provide some pain relief until symptoms progress enough to need additional treatment.
When nonsurgical interventions are not enough to control symptoms, surgery may be needed. Arthroscopy can smooth irregular surfaces and remove any loose bone fragments or damaged tissue. If the joint surface has worn away completely, a joint replacement is needed to relieve the symptoms.
Your doctor may recommend physical therapy to help you regain strength in your elbow or restore range of motion.