Arthritis is a painful inflammation and stiffness of the joint that can affect any joint in the body. This includes the elbow and shoulder.
The most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis, post-traumatic arthritis (after an injury), and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease in which the smooth cartilage that covers the bone surfaces at the joints either is injured or wears over time.
A normal joint is made of two smooth, cartilage-covered bone surfaces that fit well together so that they glide when the bones move. If the smooth surfaces wear out, then they no longer fit together and arthritis develops. Injury, infection, gout, psoriasis, and other conditions can also cause arthritis.
Signs and Symptoms
All forms of arthritis can cause stiffness, swelling, pain, and deformity. For many people, arthritis of the elbow can cause pain not only when they bend their elbow, but also when they straighten it, such as carrying a suitcase. The most common cause of arthritis of the elbow is rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis and injuries can also cause arthritis in the elbow joint.
The goals in treating osteoarthritis are to relieve pain and restore function. Treatment starts with making the correct diagnosis and then first line treatment with specialized supportive bracing. Anti-inflammatory medications can help. Cortisone injections are very effective even though they often have a bad public reputation. Injections can especially control arthritis symptoms for many months or years prior to needing surgery. It is very important to see a specialist if numbness, tingling, or radiating pain are occurring because nerve damage can occur if left untreated for a long time.