Stiff Elbow Release

This page will provide you with information about release of a stiff elbow. For further details, please speak to your consultant.

What is stiff elbow?

A surgery procedure to release a stiff elbow is typically performed if the patient is unable to straighten out their arm more than halfway or is unable to put their hand to their mouth.

Stiffness of the elbow can be the result of stiffness within the joint, outside the joint or because of the joint.


Elbow stiffness often occurs as a result a trauma or injury to the elbow and occasionally elbow arthritis. Common causes of pain in the elbow include sprains from overstretching a ligament, tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow (a condition caused by overuse called epicondylitis), a build-up of fluid over the elbow joint (bursitis) or repetitive strain injury. Note that heart conditions such as angina can also cause pain in the arm.


A healthcare professional will physically examine your elbow and look for signs of swelling. You may need to have a further CT, X-ray, or MRI scan.


If the problem is caused by an inflammation, your healthcare professional may suggest anti-inflammatory medication or an anti-inflammatory 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.

In severe cases, a doctor could recommend you for surgery. The release of stiff elbow surgery is often an arthroscopic (keyhole) procedure to remove spurs on the ends of bones and/or remove any loose bodies within the elbow.


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