Elbow Arthritis

If you have pain, stiffness and weakness in your elbow joint, you may be suffering from elbow arthritis.

At Capital Orthopaedics, our highly experienced orthopaedic specialists provide the most effective treatment for elbow arthritis and all other elbow conditions.

Located in three top London clinics, our team of consultant orthopaedic surgeons, physiotherapists, in-house radiologists and sports medicine professionals offer state-of-the-art diagnostics, cutting-edge surgical techniques and rehabilitation programmes designed to get you back to strength and mobility in the quickest time possible.

What is Elbow Arthritis?

The most common types of arthritis are:

  • Osteoarthritis: The bones in your joints are coated in a slippery layer of cartilage that helps with friction-free movement. This articular cartilage can get damaged as a result of a traumatic injury or through repetitive actions over time. Exposed bone surfaces lead to friction in the joint, irritating soft tissues in the elbow, and leading to bony growths and deformities of the bone. Pieces of bone or cartilage may also break off, causing pain and inhibiting movement.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: this inflammatory disease affects multiple joints in the body. The synovial lining of the joints become inflamed and swollen, and the disease gradually destroys the bones and soft tissues.

What are the Symptoms of Elbow Arthritis?

Symptoms of osteoarthritis are generally felt in one elbow. Rheumatoid arthritis will usually be felt in both elbows (and other joints in your body).

Symptoms include:

  • Pain when you extend your arm or rotate it.
  • Pain that continues during the night or when you are at rest is a sign of more advanced arthritis.
  • Swelling – particularly with rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Instability and weakness in your elbow, making everyday activities difficult.
  • Reduced range of motion: unable to fully straighten or bend your elbow.
  • Catching or locking
  • Stiffness

What Causes Elbow Arthritis?


The shock-absorbing articular cartilage can get torn as a result of a traumatic injury such as a sudden wrenching or an impact on the elbow joint. Cartilage can be worn away as a result of repetitive bending and straightening actions in sport (eg throwing, weightlifting) or at work. You are more likely to suffer from

Rheumatoid Arthritis

The causes of this inflammatory disease are not known, but risk factors include being over 40, smoking, family history and obesity.

How Can Elbow Arthritis be Treated?

Elbow arthritis can be treated successfully without surgery, particularly if the degenerative condition is in its early stages.

For this reason, it is vital to get a thorough diagnosis, which involves and physical examination by an elbow specialist and at least one type of scan, including MRI or ultrasound to evaluate soft tissue and cartilage damage, and an x-ray or CT scan to assess the extent of bone damage.

How Can Capital Orthopaedics Treat Elbow Arthritis?

If at all possible, our expert consultant surgeons will offer conservative treatments for elbow arthritis, including:

  • Steroid injections
  • Physiotherapy to improve strength and mobility around the joint
  • Elbow braces to support the joint during the rest and rehabilitation period
  • Advice on lifestyle alterations to improve health and fitness

If symptoms are ongoing, you may need surgery. Depending in the extent of the degeneration, surgical options include:

  • Arthroscopic surgery: removing loose bone, cartilage or bone spurs and smoothing rough surfaces using keyhole surgery.
  • Synovectomy: removing damaged or thickened areas of the joint lining (synovium) to enable freer movement – most often used for rheumatoid arthritis.
    Joint replacement: in severe cases, all or part of the elbow joint will be replaced with prosthetic parts.

If you have any pain in your elbow that is affecting your day-to-day life or your sport, it is important to get a diagnosis as soon as possible. Arthritis is a degenerative condition, so the sooner you begin treatment, the better your chances of a full recovery.

Contact the Capital Orthopaedics team here to book an appointment.

Other Elbow Conditions We Treat:

Golfer’s Elbow

Inflammation of the tendons on the inside of the elbow. The condition is caused by overuse or repetitive strain of the tendons. It is diagnosed with a careful clinical assessment and an ultrasound or MRI scan. Treatment options include physiotherapy, splints, steroid injections and shock wave therapy. Surgery is very rarely needed.

Elbow Instability

There are different types of elbow instability requiring careful clinical assessment and imaging. Treatment involves exercise-based strengthening and bracing to restrict movement. For more complex and severe cases, elbow ligament reconstruction surgery may be necessary.

Tennis Elbow

Inflammation of the tendons on the outside of the elbow caused by overuse, especially in racquet sports. Symptoms include pain, weakness and difficulty holding or gripping objects. Treatment includes physiotherapy, forearm supports and injections to reduce inflammation and promote healing. Shockwave therapy is also used to speed up the recovery process. Surgery is only rarely needed.

Loose Bodies

A loose piece of bone and/or cartilage breaks off from the bone surfaces inside the elbow joint. Symptoms include occasional acute pain and a locking of their elbow joint. It can be caused by an old injury, or as a result of arthritis – where a minor trauma causes part of the arthritic bone to break off. Symptoms include pain, clicking, locking and a sensation of instability. In more severe cases, keyhole surgery may be necessary to remove the loose bodies.

Tendon Rupture

The tendon that attaches your biceps muscle to the radius bone of your forearm can rupture usually through suddenly lifting a very heavyweight. Symptoms include weakness in the upper arm, pain and swelling inside the elbow joint, and the biceps muscle bunching up. Minor tears can be treated with physiotherapy and steroid injections, while complete ruptures may need surgical repair.

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

This condition causes pain around the inside of your elbow when the ulnar nerve that passes through your elbow joint gets pinched or injured. This can be caused by actions such as repeatedly leaning on your elbow, or bending your elbow for extended periods (eg using a phone). Rest and anti-inflammatory injections can help reduce inflammation. If symptoms persist, surgery may be needed to release the nerve.

Book an Appointment with an Orthopaedic Specialist

The Capital Orthopaedics team is made up of highly experienced medical professionals – from Mr Simon Moyes, the renowned orthopaedic consultant surgeon, to physicians, nurses, anaesthetists and physiotherapists.
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