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Stiff Elbow: Causes That Put You At Risk

Written and reviewed by
Dr. Vikas Gupta 86% (18 ratings)
MBBS, MS - Orthopaedics, Hand Surgery Fellowship
Orthopedist, Delhi  •  28 years experience
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Hello! I am Dr. Vikas Gupta from Hand2Shoulder Clinic. Today we will be talking about elbow stiffness.

How do we define elbow stiffness? Elbow stiffness is the loss of elbow movement or restriction in elbow movement. There are many causes of elbow stiffness. Common ones are prolonged immobilization, any injury to the elbow joint , arthritis or new bone formation around the joint.

How do we treat elbow stiffness? It can be treated in many ways. First one is Arthroscopy. Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure in which we make keyholes around the joint and insert a camera through one of the holes and instruments through another and we take care of all the adhesion and tissues which are preventing movements.

Once we have removed these tissues , we can mobilize the joint and after the surgery , again physiotherapy is done to regain the movements and maintain the movements. The second kind of treatment in which Arthroscopy cannot be done or if there is a new bone formation or if there are any scar tissues around the joint or there is a pre-implant from the previous surgery then we have to do open surgery or we call it Arthrolysis. In Arthrolysis we open the joint, remove all the scar tissues, implants and new bone formation around the joint which is blocking the movement. Once we have removed all the things which are blocking the movement we regain the movements and which is maintained again by physiotherapy. For some weeks physiotherapy is done so that we can initiate the movements and patient can have movements for lifelong.

If these two procedures are not working or the joint is destroyed completely like in the Arthritis in which the whole of the joint are destroyed or the articulate surfaces are gone. The articulate surface is a smooth lining of the joint on which the bone moves, the joint moves. If that is gone then we don't have any other option but to do a joint replacement. In joint replacement, we use the artificial component metal and plastic inside the body and regain the joint movements and if these movements are good then the patient can lead a normal lifestyle after joint replacement. So today we have talked about elbow stiffness. But again I will repeat that physiotherapy is the most important component of treatment of elbow stiffness.

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