You might not be making millions off of your ability to throw a baseball, but that doesn’t make your elbow joint any less vital to your body. When your elbows hurt, the pain can be very bothersome, and it may prevent you from doing many of the things you love.
Baseball pitchers aren’t the only ones who should protect their elbows. Keep reading to learn about elbow osteoarthritis, what causes it, and what your treatment options are.
Everyone who has osteoarthritis (OA) experiences a variety of symptoms. Some symptoms may be more intense or occur more frequently than others occur.
The following symptoms are the most common:
Difficulty moving the joint
Bone grating or scraping
Wear and tear in your joints damages and destroys the protective cartilage that covers the ends of the bones. Without cartilage protecting the bones, they begin to rub against each other. They may become deformed, swollen, and painful.
The elbow is one of the joints less commonly affected by OA. That’s because the ligaments in the elbow are strong enough to stabilize the joint so that it can withstand blows and damage better than some other joints in the body can.
Doctors typically suggest nonsurgical treatments first. These include:
Activity restriction: Avoid activities that aggravate the joint. Rest between periods of exercise or activity.
Pain management pills: Some over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, including acetaminophen and ibuprofen, can reduce the pain caused by OA.
Prescription medications: If OTC pain medicines aren’t effective, your doctor may prescribe prescription drugs. Steroid injections also can help ease pain.
Physical therapy: Gentle exercises and heat or cold therapy may be helpful in easing pain. Splints can reduce stress in the affected joint by gently supporting it.
If lifestyle treatments aren’t successful, your doctor may perform one of several surgical options in order to ease the symptoms of elbow OA. Surgical options include:
Synovectomy: A surgeon removes damaged pieces of the synovium, a thin layer of tissue that surrounds each joint.
Arthroscopy: A surgeon uses a small instrument to remove bone fragments, damaged cartilage, and bone spurs from the joint.
Osteotomy: A surgeon removes sections of the bone to ease symptoms and reduce the bone-on-bone contact.
Arthroplasty: The surgeon replaces the damaged joint with an artificial one.
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