The examination of an arthritic elbow can reveal stiffness and roughness of the joint and may show instability as well. X-rays often show narrowing of the space between the bones of the arm and forearm, often to the point that bone is touching bone.
Non-surgical treatment may be an option if the arthritis is mild or if the patient is not able to tolerate surgery. The physician may recommend non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to lessen the pain of the arthritis. NSAIDs work by reducing inflammation.
There are many different NSAIDs; some are sold only with a prescription, and others are available over-the-counter. One of the most commonly recognized NSAIDs is ibuprofen, sold under various brand names including Motrin®. It is important that the patient be aware of the possible side effects of these medications, including upset stomach, kidney problems and bleeding.
Steroid injections may be used, but they may not provide permanent pain relief. Physical therapy may also be recommended.
If the pain in your elbow interferes with your life despite non-surgical treatments, you may be a candidate for elbow replacement. The surgical option depends on the severity of your pain and stiffness, and your lifestyle.