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Arthritis and Rheumatism

Is There Anything That Can Be Done to Prevent a Elbow Lock?

08/26/2008

Question:

I have RA and crepitis in my elbow. My elbow locks. This time when it locked it caused damage to my radial nerve, which I am now going to physical therapy for. My big toe on my right foot locks too. I am afraid that if my joints lock again it will cause nerve or some other damage to that area. Is there any thing that can be done so that they don`t lock?

Answer:

Typically, when I consider a digit/extremity/joint that locks, the cause is from an entrapped tendon/tendon sheath or a specific type of cartilage tear. For example, when a person experiences a trigger finger, it is usually due to the tendon sheath of the finger being swollen and being too large to pass through its surrounding anatomy. If a person experiences a "bucket handle" tear of knee cartilage, the cartilage may fold over on itself and physically restrict the knee from extending. A joint contracture also causes physical restriction of motion of a joint.

In Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), the joint may have become so damaged that its normal anatomic motion is compromised and joint range of motion is then limited. A corticosteroid injection to the affected area for some of these conditions may help with the inflammation and pain symptoms. Arguably, it may delay or prevent further joint locking. However, the real answer may be controlling the underlying cause of the problem with, for instance, active RA.

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Response by:

Raymond  Hong, MD, MBA, FACR Raymond Hong, MD, MBA, FACR
Formerly, Assistant Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University