Stopping Stiff Elbows

The elbow is a joint involved in all motion and use of the arm. There is likely an underlying issue when there is elbow pain and stiffness. The elbow contains ligaments on the outside of the joint, along with muscles and tissue on the inside. If there is damage or inflammation to these ligaments, the elbow can lose range of motion (ROM). Outpatient elbow arthroscopy surgery can diagnose and treat these issues to improve movement.

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What’s behind your elbow stiffness?

An occasional stiff elbow is typical and even expected in certain professions or scenarios. However, if the stiffness is chronic, there is an underlying issue. Most elbow stiffness happens due to osteoarthritis, the wear and tear of the cartilage in the joint. As this cushion decays, the bones rub on each other, causing pain and developing bone spurs. In addition, the elbow can lock or catch on cartilage, making extending the elbow difficult. Other reasons include sports injuries, dislocations, rheumatoid arthritis, or congenital deformities.

Can same-day surgery help?

Some chronic pain and stiffness will not respond to painkillers or other conservative options. At this point, outpatient elbow arthroscopy surgery may help. This minimally invasive procedure serves 2 purposes. The doctor can use the process to confirm and diagnose conditions like arthritis or tennis elbow. The surgery can also correct and clean up any ligament damage or bone spurs causing stiffness. Elbow arthroscopy happens using minimally invasive tools and techniques, meaning patients can return home on the same day.

How is elbow arthroscopy performed?

The patient will schedule the surgery at a hospital or ambulatory surgical center. The surgeon will make a small incision near the joint and insert an arthroscope. The scope sends an image of the elbow’s tissue and ligaments to an external monitor. The surgeon will assess the elbow and confirm any underlying damage. Another incision, called a portal, is made to pass surgical tools through the incision to address the damage. The surgeon will remove any bands of tissue, loose bone fragments, or cartilage affecting the elbow’s motion. Once the surgery is complete, the incisions are closed, and the elbow is bandaged.

Will it improve my ROM?

The patient will need some time to recover but can resume minor tasks within 2 weeks. After 6-8 weeks, the elbow should be fully healed, and patients should begin to see results. Patients should see improvement with proper postoperative care, which may include physical therapy exercises. Studies show that elbow surgery significantly improves the range of motion in cases with stiffness due to injury.

Enjoy more elbow room

A stiff, painful elbow due to ligament damage, inflammation, or arthritis can be debilitating. The pain and discomfort can respond to rest, ice packs, painkillers, and exercise. However, once these techniques become ineffective, elbow arthroscopy can help. The minimally invasive approach means the patient has less swelling, less pain, and faster recovery. More importantly, patients have more range of motion after recovery.

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