Stiffness of the Elbow

Stiffness of the elbow is a common condition often caused by traumatic injury or diseases such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or tendinitis. It is characterised by difficulty in moving the elbow joint, which can immensely impact daily activities and overall quality of life.


When experiencing stiffness of the elbow, you might notice the following signs:

  • Difficulty bending or extending the arm
  • Pain during elbow movement
  • Swelling or inflammation around the elbow area
  • A sensation of grinding or friction within the joint
  • Decreased range of motion


To diagnose elbow stiffness, physicians may use various methods such as:

  • Physical Examination: Your doctor will assess the mobility of your elbow and look for signs of swelling or pain.
  • Imaging Tests: X-rays or MRI can provide a clear image of the elbow joint, helping to pinpoint the cause of stiffness.
  • Laboratory Tests: Blood tests may be conducted if an underlying disease, like rheumatoid arthritis, is suspected.


Preventative measures to reduce the risk of elbow stiffness include:

  • Regular exercise to maintain joint flexibility
  • Proper technique during physical activities to avoid injury
  • Use of protective gear when engaging in high risk activities
  • Adequate rest and breaks from repetitive elbow motions


Several treatment options are available for elbow stiffness, such as:

  • Physiotherapy: This involves a set of exercises designed to improve elbow mobility and strength.
  • Medication: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids can be prescribed to reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Splints or Braces: These devices can be utilised to support the elbow and limit painful movements.
  • Joint Injection: In severe cases, a doctor may inject corticosteroids directly into the elbow joint to reduce inflammation.
  • Surgery: In cases where conservative treatments fail, surgical procedures can be performed to remove the cause of stiffness, such as scar tissue or bone spurs. This is typically an outpatient procedure, with recovery time varying based on the severity of the condition and the specific surgical procedure performed.