Frozen Elbow--- Causes and Top 10
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July 16, 2017
By A. Weinberg, Contributing Columnist
Your elbow is a magnificent lever, which moves hundreds of times a
day in helping you lift objects, bring a glass to your lips to drink, or just
type on a smart phone. You mostly only notice your elbow when
something is wrong and the worst things that can go wrong is that the
magnificent lever stops bending. That essentially is frozen elbow.
Frozen elbow may sound a little melodramatic. And for the people who
have the condition, this is the case.
A frozen elbow is related to a stiff elbow. In his 2009 report, Suman
Nandi from the University of Cleveland, defines frozen elbow as pain or
problems extending this joint more than 30 degrees. A normal arc of
your elbow is considered to be from about 100 to 145 degrees.
A frozen elbow could come from traumatic or non-traumatic
circumstances, according to Nandi. In other words, maybe post-
surgery the elbow will develop complications. However, the condition
could be due to arthritis or other existing diseases.
You are most likely to develop a frozen elbow if you're between 30 and
50, but the disease has the potential to affect anyone.
Conditions That Are Almost Like Frozen Elbow
There are many conditions related to, but not necessarily the same as
frozen elbow, which we defined in the above paragraph. They are good
to know when analyzing the situation.
Stiff elbow is a reduction in extension greater than 30 degrees and in
flexion less than 120, according to a 1996 report by J.O. Sojberg from
the University of Aarhus in Denmark.
Tennis elbow refers to when an elbow swells and hurts, according to
the Macmillan dictionary.
Lateral elbow tendinosis is a non-inflammatory degeneration of the
collagen fibers in the elbow.
Read on to find out some specific cures for frozen elbow that could also
help out with other elbow diseases.
1. Get Thee to Physical Therapy
The most practical, non-invasive option to get your elbow back in
working order is physical therapy. The idea is that performing exercise
and strengthening techniques will help you gain flexibility, control, and
motion, according to Dr. Peter Millett, Colorado-based shoulder surgery
and sports medicine specialist. Ask your doctor if along with physical
therapy, you need additional support.
2. Use a Dynamic Orthoses
Sometimes your elbow needs an apparatus to help get the job done
right. (In this case, bending.) An "orthoses" is defined as a brace or
splint that assists movement. In 2014, Gerardo Gallucci and doctors
from the Hospital Italiano observed an orthoses in action.
They tested 30 patients with stiff elbow with an arc of mobility of 100
degrees or less. The apparatus they used was an articulated brace with
springs. Before using the orthoses, the average mobility of patients
was between 109 and 41 degrees with an average arc of motion of 68
After using the new brace with springs, after 78 days of surgery and
75 days of continued use, they had a 126 to 21 degree mobility with an
improvement of 37 degrees for the arc of motion.
3. Use a Passive Splint to Encourage Corrective Drainage of the Elbow
If your elbow is stiff or frozen due to a surgery, sometimes the best
thing to do post-operation is to use a splint, according to a 1998 study
by G.I. Bain from the Modbury Public Hospital in Australia.
The splint serves to provide pressure within the tissues around the
elbow to minimize bleeding and resist extraversion of fluid. The
apparatus is often put at 90 degrees for correct drainage to occur. You
can talk to your surgeon or physical therapist to inquire about the best
post-surgery techniques, and suggest a splint as a possible option.
4. Practice Continued Passive Motion (CPM)
Oftentimes, however, what your elbow needs is mobility, not immobility.
CPM is a technique in which the joint is moved constantly in a
mechanical splint to prevent stiffness and increase range of motion.
This exercise is also especially helpful post-surgery, immediately post-
A 2009 report from Sumon Nandi from the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio
highlights that the treatment is best to continue for 3-4 weeks, and that
there must be stable bony and soft tissue support of the elbow to try
Continued Passive Motion.
5. Try Tumeric and Other Natural Anti-inflammatory Remedies
A swollen elbow often comes with swelling, as well. In addition to
getting the range of motion back, you’ll want to keep your joint more
comfortable and in a less painful condition.
Dr. Joseph C. Maroon, a Pittsburgh-based neurosurgeon and spine
specialist, recommended a few classic ones in a 2006 Neurosurgical
Focus Magazine magazine. You can, of course, take the traditional
ibuprofen and aspirin is that is more your style.
However, Dr. Maroon affirms that white willow bark (the more
minimalist version of aspirin) works just as well. He recommends taking
240 milligrams per day. Turmeric, the dark yellow spice that might be
hiding in your cupboard could also work. Consult your physician or an
herbalist to see if you can get a custom mix of anti-inflammatory
6. Treat Underlying Conditions, including Arthropathies and Hemophilia
A frozen elbow often comes with other unfortunate side conditions.
Make sure that you take care of them. In a 2009 report by Peter J.
Evans from the Cleveland Clinic, he states that the underlying processes
involved in inflammatory arthropathies should be medically controlled
with a rheumatologist-prescribed anti-inflammatory/disease-
modifying/biologic regimen to slow joint destruction.
If you are a hemophiliac, make sure you receive appropriate blood
factor repletion to prevent multiple hemarthrosis. Regardless, make
sure you focus on treating both the elbow and any other conditions
you may have.
7. Stretch 30 Minutes a Day to Unfreeze Your Elbow
A 2013 study from A.M. Muller from the University of Basel in
Switzerland revealed that static-progressive stretching was the most
effective way to elongate. This should preferably be done using a
brace, but ask your physical therapist for a specific recommendation.
Muller and researchers found that 3 times for 30 minutes a day is the
best course of action.
8. Do Serial Casting
Another way of opening up a stiff elbow is to perform serial casting,
the process of using a series of casts to progressively correct
University of Michigan doctor Jeffrey N. Lawton confirms that this is
one the preferred non-surgical techniques of opening up a frozen
elbow, particularly post-surgery.
9. Get Hinged Internal Fixation
This is another method of assisting the elbow in bending, an internal
device to help your joint bend better, especially post-trauma. In his
2017 report, Dr. R. Mittal from the Institute of Medical Sciences
confirms that internal fixation, along with immobilization in extension,
and early motion of elbow joint are best post-trauma methods of
treating a frozen elbow.
10. Have a Cup of Tea to Relieve Frozen Elbow?
Not only herbs, but also tea, have been shown to bring down
inflammation. So, while your elbow isn’t feeling the best, you can have
a tea ritual along with your other practical exercises.
A 2016 report from Dr; J.L. Funk of the University of Arizona confirms
what we tea junkies already know --- ginger brings down swelling.
Whether you make a ginger-based infusion or stick the stuff in black
tea, you will enjoy.
Green tea is also great, when drunk in moderation, about 3-4 cups a
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|Using a splint can encourage draining to
heal a frozen elbow.
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