I read an article about a condition referred to as "frozen shoulder" and was curious if this condition can also affect the elbow. I recently had a problem with my left elbow with similar symptoms that was not a result of any injury and now have an odd formation of scar tissue.
Dr. Gregory Nicholson:
It is rarer for the elbow to become stiff without an injury or specific event: meaning trauma or surgery. However, it is indeed possible that the elbow can develop stiffness and loss of motion similar to the symptoms of frozen shoulder.
Based on your description, one possible diagnosis would be that you are experiencing pain from arthritis, which can be caused by many different equations. One common source of elbow arthritis is degeneration of the joint cartilage from aging. How old are you? What were your past activities that could have encouraged this degeneration? Have you recently changed your training program or activity level? These are all questions that would be best answered in a visit to your orthopaedic surgeon.
If indeed you are suffering from arthritis, treatment will depend on the stage of the disease, your prior medical and physical history, and the results of diagnostic X-rays. For patients experiencing the early stages of elbow arthritis, treatment often includes using an anti-inflammatory to reduce or alleviate pain, physical therapy, and activity modification. As the level of arthritis increases, your physician may recommend a corticosteroid injection to treat your arthritis symptoms.
Typically, physical therapy directed toward a diagnosis of elbow stiffness can help dramatically. Certainly an evaluation by an orthopaedic surgeon with X-rays would be appropriate prior to starting any therapy. When nonsurgical treatments are not enough to control your symptoms and pain, surgery may be an option.
For more information about Dr. Nicholson and the sports medicine physicians of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, call 877 MD BONES or visit them online at www.rushortho.com.
The information contained on this page is intended only for general public education, and is not intended to serve as a substitute for direct medical advice. This information should not replace necessary medical consultations with a qualified orthopaedic physician.
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