Skip to main content

Elbow contracture, sometimes simply called a stiff elbow, is an injury that causes pain and limits bending of your elbow. The pain may affect your ability to perform daily activities such as getting dressed, driving or using a keyboard. The elbow specialists at University of Maryland Medical Center can help.

Causes of Elbow Contracture

Painful contracture is caused by:

  • Arthritis
  • Bone growth in soft tissue, muscle or tendons
  • Dislocation, breaks and other injuries
  • Scarring of soft tissue around the elbow joint

Once our elbow specialists diagnose your condition they'll discuss all of your treatment options with you.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Depending on your condition, we may recommend a nonsurgical therapy to restore your range of motion and relieve pain. Therapies can include changing daily activities, using elbow splints or physical therapy.

Surgical Release Procedure

Elbow contracture prior to surgical repair by a University of Maryland Medical Center orthopedic surgeon

This patient has typical motion loss, with only 105 degrees of elbow flexion and 50 degrees of elbow extension. This requires contracture release surgery.

During elbow release surgery our doctors remove scar tissue, abnormal bone growth and, if needed, other damaged tissue in your elbow.

We relieve pressure on the nerves and free them from surrounding scar tissue. And we use extra care to preserve your normal elbow ligaments.

Elbow contracture release surgery can be either open surgery or arthroscopic surgery.

Open surgery uses an incision near the elbow joint. Minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery uses tiny surgical tools and a camera and typically allows for faster healing.

Recovery

Elbow contracture after surgery by a University of Maryland Medical Center orthopedic surgeon

Post-operative range of motion in same patient:

You begin physical therapy within 24 hours after elbow release surgery.

Your physical therapist will also teach you simple exercises you will continue to do at home two to three times a day.

Patients usually go home the same day of the surgery.

To speed recovery, you may use a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine for the first weeks at home. You can resume activities such as golf and swimming after about six weeks.

Outpatient physical therapy is usually not necessary for elbow contracture release.

Make an Appointment

To make an appointment with one of our elbow specialists, or to learn more about treatment options, care and locations, call 410-448-6400.