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What is stiff elbow?

Stiffness of the elbow can be the result of stiffness within the joint, outside the joint or because of the joint. Surgery to release a stiff elbow is typically performed if the patient is unable to straighten out their arm more than halfway or is unable to put their hand to their mouth. 

Causes of stiff elbow

Elbow stiffness often occurs as a result a trauma or injury to the elbow and occasionally elbow arthritis.
Common causes of pain in the elbow include:

  • sprains from overstretching a ligament
  • tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow (a condition caused by overuse called epicondylitis)
  • a build-up of fluid over the elbow joint (bursitis)
  • repetitive strain injury.

Heart conditions such as angina can also cause pain in the arm.

How is stiff elbow diagnosed?

A healthcare professional will physically examine your elbow and look for signs of swelling. You may need to have a further CT, X-ray, or MRI scan.

Treatment for stiff elbow

If the problem is caused by an inflammation, your healthcare professional may suggest anti-inflammatory medication or an anti-inflammatory injection. A doctor may also recommend you visit a physiotherapist, who could suggest movement exercises or a forearm strap designed to relieve pressure on the tendons in your elbow.

In severe cases, a doctor could recommend you for surgery. The release of stiff elbow surgery is often an arthroscopic (keyhole) procedure to remove spurs on the ends of bones and/or remove any loose bodies within the elbow.

Stiff elbow release consultants at Parkside Hospital

Parkside Hospital

53 Parkside, Wimbledon, London, SW19 5NX

020 8971 8000
Switchboard 020 8971 8000
Outpatient appointments 0208 137 8431
Self-pay patients 0208 137 8432
NHS England Patients team 0208 971 1261
Private GP service 0208 137 8431
Admissions – for patients booked for surgery 020 8971 8012
Account enquiries 020 8605 2895
Diagnostics 0208 137 8459
Physiotherapy 0208 137 8431
Pathology 020 8971 8022
Finance – to pay a bill or invoice enquiries (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm) 020 8605 2895

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