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What is Elbow Stiffness?


Stiffness of the elbow can be extremely problematic. Motion of this joint is vital to adequate positioning of the hand. Stiffness of the elbow after injury or due to arthritis can be very limiting.

If the stiffness is due to arthritis, it usually will not respond to anything short of surgical intervention. If the elbow stiffness is after an injury, however, it can often be treated successfully without surgery if treatment is initiated early and the patient is cooperative with the instructions.

As a result of the above, the goal after elbow injury and/or surgery is to try to move the elbow as soon as is it safely possible. Sometimes this means wearing a brace with hinges in order to give the elbow some support while doing motion exercises. One needs to work on bending (flexing) and straightening (extending) the elbow as well as keeping the elbow at the side and turning the forearm so that the palm faces up (supinate) and then the palm faces down (pronate). Like most stretches, these stretches should be held for about one minute. Bouncing should be avoided and the maneuver should not cause extreme pain, but one should feel a good stretch.

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