Cutting-Edge Solutions from Great River Orthopaedic Specialists
Our elbows are a hinge joint at the center of our arm made of up three
bones: The humerus (the upper arm bone), the radius, and the ulna (both
our forearm bones). When we bend our elbow, the both of these forearm
bones rub against the humerus. This joint is essential to everyday mobility
and functioning and can often be repaired via surgery when needed. To
learn more about our elbow surgery treatments, contact us at Great River
Orthopaedic Specialists today.
In a healthy elbow joint, the surfaces of these bones are very smooth and
covered with a tough protective tissue called cartilage. Arthritis causes
damage to the bone and cartilage where the three bones rub together. These
damaged surfaces eventually become painful.
Arthritic Elbow Joint Surfaces There are many ways to treat the pain caused by arthritis, including surgery.
In total elbow-replacement surgery, an artificial hinge made of metal
and a very durable plastic material is inserted into the joint so the
elbow can move without allowing the two forearm bones to contact the humerus.
This artificial hinge is called an “implant.”
The decision to have total elbow-replacement surgery should be made very
carefully after talking to your physician and learning as much as you
can about the elbow joint, arthritis and the surgery.
After Elbow Surgery
The following are some ways to incorporate movement after you have had
elbow replacement surgery. Discuss these techniques with your physicians
and orthopaedist before attempting them. Your physical therapist may modify
some of these techniques depending on your situation (i.e., age, weight,
and procedure). Only do the techniques that are recommended by your physician
It is very important that you follow your surgeon's instructions. The
following suggestions should be discussed with your surgeon before your
- Do not use your surgery arm to get up out of bed or from a chair position.
Use the opposite arm.
- Your doctor will likely give you a list of exercises to do once you're
home. Be certain to follow your doctor's instructions, but typically
you will be asked to do these four or five times a day for a month or so.
- You may experience less pain after surgery, which may make you believe
you can do more. Be certain to follow your doctor's instructions so
that you don't overdo it.
- The amount of weight you can lift using your surgery arm will be limited.
Your doctor may recommend that you don't lift anything heavier than
one pound for the first twelve weeks and that you avoid lifting anything
heavier than five pounds after recovery.
- You may need to wear the sling every night for at least the first month.
- You will likely need to avoid contact sports after surgery. Your doctor
will discuss these restrictions with you.
- Remember that you will probably tire more easily than usual. You may want
to plan a rest period of 30 to 60 minutes mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
- Avoid sweeping, mopping, and running the vacuum cleaner using your surgery
arm. Use long-handled feather dusters for dusting high and low items.
Your doctor will tell you when it is okay to sweep, mop, and vacuum.
- Constipation is a common problem for patients following surgery. This is
usually due to your limited activity and any pain medications you may
be taking. Discuss your diet with your doctor. It should include fresh
fruits and vegetables as well as eight full glasses of liquid each day
unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
- Your doctor will probably give you a prescription for pain pills. Please
follow your doctor's instructions concerning these medications.
- Some swelling around the incision is normal. You will find it more comfortable
to wear loose clothing to avoid pressure on the incision. Ask your doctor
or other qualified health professional about appropriate wound care.