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Elbow Stiffness

The elbow joint is a hinge joint. The movements that the joint allows is bending (flexion) and straightening (extension) and rotation of the forearm (supination &pronation).The normal elbow moves from 0 degrees to 145 degrees of flexion. Most of us only need around 30 to 130 degrees of elbow movements. Certain groups of people like athletes may need more movements.This range is called the functional range of movement.


What are the causes of elbow stiffness?

The causes of elbow stiff can be divided into two broad groups. Stiffness due to factors within the joint and stiffness due to factors outside the elbow joint.

Intrinsic / Intra-articular Causes

Post-trauma / injury stiffness

Primary Osteoarthritis


Joint Infection

Malunions Extrinsic

Extra-articular Causes


Heterotopic Ossification (reactive new bone formation in the soft tissues around the joint)

Congenital (present from birth) – arthrogryposis, congenital dislocation of the radial head


The most common cause is, stiffness after trauma, fractures or injury.


The degree of stiffness depends on the severity of the initial injury and the amount of injury sustained by the cartilage of the joint.The recovery or improvement of the stiffness will also depend on whether the stiffness is a simple one i.e without bony deformities, no nerve injury, no prior surgery, no metal implants in place, minimal heterotrophic ossification,or a complex stiffness.


Treatment options


Initial treatment consists of physiotherapy and supportive treatment to try and gradual stretch the covering of the elbow and soft tissues around it.Other measures are Splinting – in a gradually progressive fashion.Surgery – This can be open or arthroscopic (key-hole) surgery. Keyhole surgery has the advantage of being less invasive with a potential for quicker recovery. This is especially so if there has been no previous surgery or deformities.




Dr Vinod Kumar Cochin

Elbow surgeon cochin

Shoulder surgeon cochin

Aster Medcity

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