Those at Most Risk for Elbow Arthritis
The onset of elbow osteoarthritis usually appears after age 50, but some people can develop symptoms much earlier. Elbow arthritis tends to be more common in men than in women, especially the types not caused by a specific elbow injury. Work activity is a common culprit in bringing on elbow arthritis – through “wear and tear” of repetitive motions. Those who commonly engage in work or sports activities that can negatively affect the elbow should strive to maintain proper muscle strength in the arms, and always use proper conditioning exercises before engaging in these types of activities in order to minimize the risk of damage.
Symptoms of Elbow Arthritis
There is often a sense of the elbow joint not working smoothly, with there being a locking or grating type of sensation. This can be caused by loose bits of cartilage in the affected joint. As the condition progresses, swelling might occur, and when afflicted with elbow arthritis, there might eventually be some numbness in the ring and small finger, as a result of the swelling causing pressure on nerves.
Diagnosing Elbow Arthritis
The only certain method of diagnosing arthritis of the elbow is via X-rays. A doctor can diagnose elbow osteoarthritis by using X-rays, as well as by observing the symptoms. X-rays can clearly show the degenerative changes to the elbow joint, and can provide a positive diagnosis of osteoarthritis.
Treating Arthritis of the Elbow
Treatments for elbow osteoarthritis vary depending on the stage of the arthritis, also as the specific diagnosis, and the patient’s history and overall medical condition. Non-surgical options are effective for mild cases, or in the early stages of elbow osteoarthritis. These can include physical therapy, activity modifications, and oral medications (Provailen) to reduce inflammation and pain.
Commonly, pain is controlled or alleviated by the use of naproxen sodium or other antiinflammatory drugs. Corticosteroid injections are also used in certain cases to treat the symptoms of arthritis in the elbow. The results are temporary, but can provide significant relief from the pain.
In some cases, surgical treatments are necessary to adequately control the symptoms of arthritis of the elbow when medication and physical therapy do not cause a positive response in the condition. Arthroscopy can be effectively used if the damage to the joint surfaces isn’t too severe, and often provides relief for patients, especially in the earlier stages of elbow osteoarthritis. There are also surgical options that can improve the range of motion of the elbow by smoothing the joint surfaces. If the joint surface is severely worn, sometimes the only effective option is a joint replacement.