Two years ago, I broke my right elbow during a bad fall on the ice. Wouldn't you know it, I am both right-handed. And I have moderately severe rheumatoid arthritis (which is worse on that side). They wired me back together, but the joint is so stiff I can hardly use it. Can something be done to loosen me back up?
The first step is to go back to your surgeon for a follow-up evaluation. Depending on what your surgeon finds, there may be several options to choose from. First, a firm commitment to a rehab program may be in order. Working with a physical therapist may be advised. If this is a viable option, you'll have to work hard for at least three months to restore motion and regain function.
But beware that elbows are notoriously difficult to rehab. But it's worth it if you can avoid or delay surgery. However, if rehab is not a good option or doesn't result in improvement, then surgery may be the next step. Again, your surgeon will guide you through this process.
It may be as simple as removing the hardware to restore motion again. Or it's possible the joint will need to be replaced. A total elbow joint replacement is possible. Because the implants aren't expected to last more than 10 to 15 years, this procedure isn't always recommended for younger patients. It all depends on your level of pain, motion, activities, and function.
Bernhard Jost, MD, et al. Management of Acute Distal Humeral Fractures in Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis. A Case Series. In The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery. October 2008. Vol. 90-A. No. 10. Pp. 2197-2205.
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