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Elbow-release surgery can relieve pain and stiffness in the elbow joint
Call or book online today to arrange a consultation to discuss private elbow release surgery with a consultant of your choice at Circle Health Group.
This page explains the causes and symptoms of a stiff elbow as well as the surgical options available to treat it.
Elbow release surgery, also known as arthrolysis, is a procedure to remove scar tissue and bone growths, release the elbow joint and restore flexibility to the arm.
If you are paying for your own treatment, we offer fixed-price payment packages, so you'll know all the costs upfront before you start treatment. We'll confirm everything in writing ahead of time, there are no hidden costs down the line, and your aftercare is included in the price.
We also offer flexible payment options that allow you to spread the cost of your treatment across monthly payments over one to five years, with interest-free options available.
If you have private health insurance, stiff elbow release surgery will usually be covered by your policy. Speak to your provider directly to find out. We work with all major insurers.
The main symptom of a stiff elbow is a reduced ability to move, particularly straighten, your affected arm. There may also be pain, depending on the cause of your stiff elbow.
If surgery is a good option for you, your surgeon will explain the procedure, including what happens before, during, and after your surgery. Ask your surgeon any questions you may have about the surgery during your consultation. Being well-informed and prepared for your surgery will let you know what to expect, help you feel more comfortable, and aid your recovery.
A normal range of motion for an elbow is 30 to 145 degrees. A stiff elbow is diagnosed when this is lessened by 30 degrees or more.
Your surgeon will decide on the best treatment for you, based on a combination of your physical examination and test results.
Your first consultation is important because your surgeon can discuss your history and symptoms, provide a diagnosis, and recommend a suitable treatment. It’s important that we spend this one-on-one time with you, to get to know you and your expectations for treatment. This allows us to provide individualised, tailor-made care.
Being prepared for surgery will help you feel less anxious and to know what to expect after your operation. Your consultant will ask you about any medical conditions or allergies you have, as well as any medications you are taking. They will perform a complete physical check-up to make sure you are fit for surgery. Your surgeon wants you to be as informed and comfortable as possible before your surgery, so ask any questions you may have to help put your mind at rest.
Your surgeon may tell you to stop taking certain medications including blood thinners and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs before your surgery. This is to prevent excessive bleeding during your operation.
You won't be able to eat or drink anything from midnight on the day of your surgery.
Being as healthy as possible before your surgery will help you to recover faster. Some lifestyle changes you can make before having your surgery include:
After your surgery, your arm will be immobilised in a sling for a few days, meaning you will need help with activities like cooking and housework.
Try to arrange for someone to care for you or check on you during this time. You may feel tired after your surgery, so try to take a break from social events and work to give yourself time to recover. Eat a healthy, nutritious diet and avoid alcohol and smoking to give your body the best chance of healing.
Some things you can do before your surgery to prepare and make your recovery easier include:
Elbow release surgery is either done as open surgery (through incisions made in the elbow) or keyhole surgery where a camera and instruments are inserted through 5mm incisions in the skin. Your surgeon will decide which type of surgery is most suitable for you.
Elbow release surgery takes about one and a half hours. You will be given a general anaesthetic which means you'll be asleep for the procedure.
After stiff elbow release surgery, your wounds will be dressed, and a bandage applied to your arm. Your elbow may be placed in a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine that continually bends and straightens your arm. When you leave hospital, you may need to wear a brace and your arm will be put in a sling for a few days to provide support.
Physiotherapy is an essential part of recovery and should start as soon as possible after your surgery. You will need to have physiotherapy for up to 12 weeks after surgery.
You will normally spend one or two nights in hospital, depending on your recovery and whether there were any complications during your surgery. Talk to your consultant about how long you can expect to be in hospital.
No. You will not be able to drive until you have adequate strength and movement in your arm (normally after around two weeks). You will need someone to drive you home from hospital after your surgery, or if you prefer, we can order a taxi for you.
How soon you can go back to work depends on your recovery and the kind of job you do. Most people return to work within a few days, but if your job involves climbing, heavy lifting, or driving, it may be several weeks before you can return to work.
Remember, it’s important to go at your own pace during your recovery, and pushing yourself too hard can end up making things worse. Speak to your consultant about when you can expect to return to work after your surgery.
After your surgery, you will begin to recover at a steady pace, but it can take up to 12 weeks to be fully back to normal. Your surgeon can give you an idea of the time it will take you to make a full recovery based on your personal situation and circumstances.
Like all surgical procedures, there are risks and possible complications of stiff elbow release surgery. You can minimise the risk by being well-informed about your surgery and recovery and following your consultant and physiotherapist's instructions carefully.
Before your operation, your consultant will discuss the risks and possible complications of surgery with you, so that you can make an informed decision.
Your elbow may be stiff and painful for many reasons including an injury, a medical condition such as arthritis, or wear and tear on the elbow joint. The only way to find out for sure why your elbow is stiff and painful is to arrange a consultation with a specialist.
How you relieve elbow stiffness depends on the cause. Sometimes home treatments are enough to help with elbow stiffness, but in other cases, you may need medical treatment or surgery. Some things that may help with elbow pain or stiffness include:
If your elbow stiffness doesn't go away or gets worse after trying these treatments, make an appointment with a doctor.
Using your elbow a lot during sports such as golf, swimming, badminton, and tennis doesn't usually cause a stiff elbow, but it can cause a condition known as epicondylitis (inflammation of the tendons). Tennis elbow and golfers elbow are both forms of the condition which is caused by repetitive, forceful movements of the forearm and wrist. Symptoms include elbow pain, reduced grip strength, shaking hands, and sometimes numbness or tingling of the elbow, forearm, hand, and fingers.
How long elbow stiffness lasts depends on the cause. Sometimes elbow stiffness may resolve on its own or with home treatments, but some types of elbow stiffness need medical treatment or surgery. If you are worried about elbow stiffness, or if your symptoms are getting worse or not going away, make an appointment with a doctor.
Occasional morning stiffness can be a sign of a bad night's sleep or poor sleeping position, but if it happens often, make an appointment with your doctor. Stiff joints in the morning can be an early sign of arthritis, or you may have another problem that needs treatment.
If you would like to see a consultant or learn more about stiff elbow release surgery, book your appointment today or call a member of our team directly on 0141 300 5009.
The stiff elbow: Current concepts PubMed
Open elbow arthrolysis for post-traumatic elbow stiffness Bone and Joint Open
Release of the medial collateral ligament to improve flexion in post-traumatic elbow stiffness The Bone and Joint Journal
How to treat a stiff elbow American Society for Surgery of the Hand
Post-traumatic elbow stiffness: Pathogenesis and current treatments PubMed