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Elbow arthritis is inflammation of the elbow joint. A joint is the area where two bones meet.
Arthritis involves the breakdown of cartilage. Normal cartilage is the smooth lining that protects a joint and allows it to move freely.
Cartilage also absorbs shock when pressure is placed on the joint, such as when you walk.
Without the normal amount of cartilage, the bones rub together. This causes swelling and stiffness.
Joint inflammation may result from:
- An autoimmune disease (the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue)
- Broken bone
- General "wear and tear" on joints
- Infection, usually by bacteria or virus
In most cases, the joint inflammation goes away after the cause goes away or is treated. Sometimes it does not. When this happens, you have chronic arthritis. Arthritis may occur in men or women. Osteoarthritis is the most common type.
Elbow Arthritis Symptoms
Symptoms of elbow arthritis include:
- Joint pain
- Joint swelling
- Reduced ability to move the joint
- Redness and warmth of the skin around a joint
- Joint stiffness, especially in the morning
Treating Elbow Arthritis
The goal of treatment is to reduce pain, improve function, and prevent further joint damage. The underlying cause often cannot be cured. Your health care provider may suggest physical therapy. This might include:
- Heat or ice
- Splints or orthotics to support joints and help improve their position; this is often helpful for rheumatoid arthritis
- Water therapy
- Anti-inflammatory medications
Other things you can do include:
- Get plenty of sleep. Sleeping 8 to 10 hours a night and taking naps during the day can help you recover from a flare-up more quickly, and may even help prevent flare-ups.
- Avoid staying in one position for too long.
- Avoid positions or movements that place extra stress on your sore joints.
- Change your home to make activities easier. For example, install grab bars in the shower, the tub, and near the toilet.
- Try stress-reducing activities, such as meditation, yoga or tai chi.
- Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, which contain important vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin E.
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as cold water fish (salmon, mackerel and herring), flaxseed, rapeseed (canola) oil, soybeans, soybean oil, pumpkin seeds and walnuts.
- Avoid excessive alcohol and smoking.
- Apply capsaicin cream over your painful joints. You may feel improvement after applying the cream for 3 to 7 days.
Surgical solutions are offered as a last resort for elbow arthritis and pain that is not getting better with other options. Depending on the severity of the arthritis, solutions include an arthroscopic clean out and removal of bone spurs or even an elbow replacement.