Elbow stiffness

Elbow stiffness is one of the most common problems in the elbow.  Many cases are a result or injury or previous fractures but arthritis may also cause stiffness.  The elbow joint is particularly prone to stiffness due to the complex arrangement of the joint and the surrounding muscles and ligaments.

Stiffness in the elbow can be functionally limiting but often other symptoms such as ‘locking’, swelling or pain can be associated and in fact prove more troublesome.

Investigation will usually require an x-ray and sometimes specialist scans are needed to clarify the problem.

Treatment for elbow stiffness, especially following an injury, will usually begin with physiotherapy.  Severe cases or patients with other symptoms, such as locking due to loose bodies, will require surgery.  Many cases can be performed under arthroscopy (keyhole surgery), though conventional ‘open’ surgery is often required for more severe cases.

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