For many people, arthritis in elbow can cause pain not only when they bend their elbow, but also when they straighten it, such as to carry a briefcase.
The most common cause of elbow arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis and injuries can also cause arthritis in the elbow joint.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease of the joint linings, or synovia. As the joint lining swells, the joint space narrows. The disease gradually destroys the bones and soft tissues. Usually, rheumatoid arthritis affects both elbows, as well other joints such as the hand, wrist and shoulder.
Osteoarthritis affects the cushioning cartilage on the ends of the bones that enables them to move smoothly in the joint. As the cartilage is destroyed, the bones begin to rub against each other. Loose fragments within the joint may accelerate degeneration.
Trauma or injury to the elbow can also damage the cartilage of the joint. This can lead to the development of arthritis in the injured joint.
Elbow arthritis symptoms vary and can include:
- Pain: in the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis, pain may be primarily on the outer side of the joint. Forearm pain generally gets worse as you turn (rotate) your forearm. The pain of osteoarthritis may get worse as you extend your arm. Pain that continues during the night or when you are at rest indicates a more advanced stage of osteoarthritis.
- Swelling: this is more common with rheumatoid arthritis
- Stiffness: this happens particularly with arthritis that develops after an injury.
- Locking: your elbow joint catches or locks. This can happen with Osteoarthritis.
- Instability: the joint isn’t stable and gives way, making it difficult or impossible to do normal daily activities.
- Lack of full movement: you are not able to straighten (extend) or bend (flex) the elbow.