Elbow Stiffness

Elbow Stiffness
May 23, 2016

elbow“Elbow stiffness can be caused by injury or degenerative or congenital disease in and around the joint. It might also be a result of a post surgical trauma”, emphasizes Dr. Gupta, one of the most skilled hands in the hand and upper extremity field. “The only way that elbow stiffness can be ascertained is the limitation that the elbow faces while moving and the forearm while rotating. Practically speaking the elbow should not be immobilized for a very long period of time as it greatly contributes to elbow stiffness.” Dr. Gupta asserts calmly with his more than 20 years of experience giving him that deftness that requires no explanation.

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Having completed his MBBS and MS in Ortho from AIIMS and his selfless service in AIIMS, Fortis, The Medanta Medicity and at present Max Healthcare Dr. Gupta has been nominated for and received various prestigious awards for being the first surgeon to introduce revolutionary international techniques to Indian medication field.
“Coming back to elbow stiffness, I would like to reemphasize that generally conservative techniques work well with it accompanied by physiotherapy and splinting and it is only failure of these techniques that require arthroscopic release or open surgery depending on the traumatic condition of the elbow joint.”

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Having done in depth studies in the upper extremity field from Germany and USA, Dr. Gupta is never perturbed by the complexity or simplicity of the physical condition of the patient and with compassion and proficiency handles each case with intelligent evaluation and implementation of remedial measures.
“As regards elbow stiffness I would definitely like to assert that to prevent your elbow from becoming stiff you have to indulge in the expertise of an efficient surgeon who leaves no scope for any carelessness and also seek medical treatment as soon as any debilitating condition or disease affects your elbow joint.”


FAQ – Elbow Stiffness

When after an injury or any surgical procedure having been performed on the elbow, the elbow becomes stiff i.e. restricted to move, the condition is referred to as elbow stiffness.
The causes can be classified on the basis of Within the joint – any degenerative disease such as (rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, malunions), any scarred tissue or loose cartilage or bone. Outside the joint – any congenital disease like radial head, muscle scarred or shortened or any bone formed in the muscles (heterotopic ossification) can lead to elbow stiffness or any traumatic injury that holds the elbow immobilized for a long time or post surgical trauma can make the elbow stiff.
The most common sign of elbow stiffness is that it will be difficult to move or bend the elbow beyond a range as well as rotating the forearm. Pain present or absent depends on the severity or problem so it is not considered an essential marker to ascertain elbow stiffness.
Elbow stiffness is not a disease or traumatic injury rather is the resultant factor. Any problem in moving the forearm or elbow signifies stiffness and the diagnostic test such as X-ray or MRI is conducted to ascertain the cause that has resulted in elbow stiffness.
There are no viable ways to prevent elbow stiffness except that when the elbow joint sustains an injury or is affected by a degenerative disease, the surgical repair should be skillfully performed such that the damage could be articulately controlled and no room is given to the injury to create any damage thereafter. Early mobilization and fixation in fractures is another important prerequisite to preventing elbow stiffness.
The patient will become used to the stiffness and limited motion if left untreated and in cases like arthritis the stiffness will become severe with passage of time.
The treatment of elbow stiffness is directly dependent on the cause that has evoked it and the severity of the damage that has been caused to the joint and soft tissues surrounding it. Elbow stiffness can begun to be treated with anti inflammatory drugs or corticosteroid injections in the joint along with physiotherapy. These conservative treatments can bring relief to the stiff elbow and gently help in bringing back motion. Another effective technique is the turnbuckle splinting in which an elbow brace that exerts constant force on the elbow to stretch the tissues and enable motion is applied. Even after significant time has passed and the measures have failed to provide any relief to the elbow causing hindrance in the daily activities then consideration might be given to surgical release technique. The surgery is either taken up as an arthroscopic repair or as open surgery depending on the previous techniques that had been applied to treat the debilitating condition of the joint. Surgery ensures almost full functional elbow.
Conservative techniques usually have mild side effects which are not harmful and the surgical techniques have a high success ratio but can be infected or the outcome to restore motion may not be as desired.
The only precautions that as a patient you have to ensure are keeping the wound clean and dry until it heals so that it is saved from being infected and gentle exercises to enable motion. The sling should also be discarded soon as immobilization for a very long period can cause further stiffness.
Getting back to your normal activities and work depends on the treatment technique that has been undertaken, your work and the role the hand plays in it. A patient who wants to return to desk work can resume it within 3 weeks but a patient returning to manual work will have to wait for at least 10 weeks. Though driving can be picked up almost within 10 days or so.
Posted in Condition & Treatments by admin