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Shoulder and Elbow - Stiff Elbow

Shoulder and Elbow - Stiff Elbow: Overview, Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors and More | Singapore General Hospital

Shoulder and Elbow - Stiff Elbow - What it is

The elbow is a joint that is easily complicated by stiffness after injury or disease. This is because the elbow actually comprises 3 separate joints that fits extremely well together, and is in close proximity to a host of soft tissue structures.

Shoulder and Elbow - Stiff Elbow - Symptoms

You will experience limited range of motion in the elbow when bending the elbow, and sometimes in forearm rotation as well. Pain may or may not be an associated symptom depending on the underlying problem.

Shoulder and Elbow - Stiff Elbow - How to prevent?

In patients with elbow injury, stable fixation of fractures and early mobilisation is the best form of prevention of elbow stiffness. In diseases which can result in articular cartilage damage, early and effective treatment to control the disease and limit articular cartilage is needed to minimise long term elbow stiffness.


Shoulder and Elbow - Stiff Elbow - Causes and Risk Factors

Causes of Stiff Elbow

Post-injury stiffness
The most common cause in our population is post-injury stiffness of the elbow.

Other diseases
A stiff elbow joint can also arise due to other diseases like infection and auto-inflammatory conditions (for example, rheumatoid arthritis).

Congenital problems
Certain congenital problems may also present with elbow stiffness.

Risk factors of Stiff Elbow

Prolonged immobilisation
Patients with prolonged immobilisation of the elbow joint due to injury or illness are at highest risk of developing elbow stiffness.

Damage to joint
Diseases like infection that lead to damage of the joint surface (also known as the articular cartilage) also predispose to elbow stiffness.

Shoulder and Elbow - Stiff Elbow - Diagnosis

You should seek medical treatment when you sustain injuries to the elbow that results in severe pain and swelling. Often, seeking traditional forms of treatment without prior evaluation with x-rays to exclude fractures can lead to long term damage of the elbow joint, pain and stiffness.

If you experience spontaneous onset of elbow pain without any prior history of trauma, you should seek medical advice to rule out any serious elbow disease, as delays in treatment may lead to a poorer outcome.

Shoulder and Elbow - Stiff Elbow - Treatments

The exact treatment for elbow stiffness depends on the underlying cause, and the extent to which the elbow joint itself and its surrounding soft tissue structures are affected. Generally, the treatment of elbow stiffness hinges on the use of splints, exercises, and judicious surgery. Surgical release of the stiff elbow may sometimes be used if conservative methods fail, or if these measures are unsuitable.

Shoulder and Elbow - Stiff Elbow - Preparing for surgery

Shoulder and Elbow - Stiff Elbow - Post-surgery care

Shoulder and Elbow - Stiff Elbow - Other Information

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