Elbow osteoarthritis

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Elbow osteoarthritis occurs once the cartilage surface of the elbow is worn out or damaged. This can occur due to a previous injury such as a fracture or dislocation. It can also be a result of degeneration of the joint cartilage from aging.

It is important to note that osteoarthritis affects the weight-bearing joints such as the knee and hip. The elbow is not usually affected due to its suited joint surfaces and durable stabilizing ligaments. Understandably, the elbow joint is capable of tolerating strong forces without becoming unstable.

Diagnosing elbow osteoarthritis

The doctor will diagnose the condition based on the symptoms and X-ray results. The X-ray will reveal any arthritis changes. A CT scan or MRI is no longer needed to diagnose elbow osteoarthritis. If this condition occurs without any previous injury, it is quite common in men than women. This typically starts among those who are 50 years old or older but some can have symptoms earlier.

Elbow osteoarthritis
The common symptoms include pain and diminished range of motion.

Risk factors

Individuals who are identified with elbow osteoarthritis usually have a history of injuries such as fractures that involve the joint surface or dislocation. The risk of an individual increases with the following:

  • Surgery is required to repair the injury or reconstruct the joint
  • Loss of joint cartilage
  • Joint surface could not be repaired or reconstructed

If the individual sustained an injury to the ligaments which results to an unstable elbow, it can also lead to osteoarthritis.

In some individuals, no injury to the elbow occurs. Certain activities can lead to the development of elbow osteoarthritis if high demand is placed on the joint.


The ideal way to prevent elbow osteoarthritis from developing is to avoid any injuries on the joint. In case injury occurs, it is vital to recognize it immediately and seek prompt treatment. Those who engage in heavy work or sports must maintain muscular strength around the elbow. Proper condition and correct techniques must be observed at all times.

What are the symptoms?

The common symptoms include pain and diminished range of motion. Remember that both symptoms might not occur at the same time. There is also a grating feeling in the joint. This grating is due to the wearing away of the level joint surface due to cartilage damage or wear and tear. As for the locking, it is caused by the slack cartilage pieces or bone that dislodge from the joint and end up trapped between the moving joint surfaces, thus blocking movement. In some cases, joint swelling can also occur but later as the condition progresses.


The treatment for elbow osteoarthritis depends on the phase of the disease, history, overall health status and X-ray results.

During the early stages of the condition, the commonly used treatment includes oral medications, activity modification and physical therapy. Corticosteroid injections are also used in managing the symptoms. Steroid medications can also provide effective results. Even though these are temporary, they provide significant relief from pain until the symptoms progress enough to entail further treatment. To learn to recognize and manage bone and joint conditions include osteoarthritis, enroll in a course on first aid today.

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