Release of Stiff Elbow

Treatment to release a stiff elbow is typically performed if the patient is suffering from pain when making a fist or opening their fingers or is unable to straighten their arm more than halfway.

Stiffness of the elbow can be the result of inflammation within the joint, scar tissue building on tendons or bone spurs – bony overgrowths that form in some joints.


Elbow stiffness is often caused by a fall or injury to the elbow and occasionally degenerative problems like rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. Common causes of pain in the elbow include sporting sprains, conditions caused by overuse like tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow, a build-up of fluid over the elbow joint (bursitis) or trapped nerves.


A healthcare professional will physically examine your elbow look for signs of swelling. Problems inside a joint can often be diagnosed after a CT, X-ray or MRI scan.


If the problem is caused by an inflammation your healthcare professional may recommend nonsurgical treatment such as anti-inflammatory medication or a cortisone injection.

A doctor may also recommend you visit a physiotherapist, who could suggest movement exercises or a forearm strap designed to relieve pressure on the tendons in your elbow.

If it is thought that you need surgery to treat your condition, an open surgery or arthroscopic (keyhole) procedure to release a stiff elbow will remove spurs on the ends of bones, extract any loose bodies within the elbow or release trapped nerves.

This page is intended for informational purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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