Alexander E Weber, MD
Orthopaedic surgeon & sports Medicine specialist

Elbow Contracture

Orthopaedic Surgeon & Sports Medicine Specialist in Beverly Hills, El Segundo, Glendale, & Los Angeles, CA

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Elbow Contracture services offered in Beverly Hills, El Segundo, Glenale & Los Angeles, CA

Typically, a normal elbow joint has a functional range of motion of 30-145 degrees. A diagnosis of elbow contracture is made when the ability to extend or flex the arm is reduced by 30 degrees or more. If the flexion contracture is greater than 45 degrees, it can significantly impact a patient's ability to perform routine daily activities like bathing and eating.


Symptoms of Elbow Contracture include the following:

  • Stiffness of the elbow
  • Inability to fully extend or flex the arm
  • Usually no pain is associated with elbow contractures.


Causes and risk factors associated with elbow contracture, include:

  • Elbow trauma
  • Elbow surgery
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Loose bodies
  • Osteophytes or bone spurs
  • Malunions of fractures
  • Joint infection
  • Burns


Elbow conditions should be evaluated by an Orthopaedic surgeon for proper diagnosis and treatment. Your surgeon will review your medical history, and perform a physical examination and order diagnostic studies such as X-ray, CT scan, MRI, and nerve conduction studies.

For elbow contracture that is less than six months old, conservative treatment options can be effective. These options will depend on your individual circumstances and may involve the following:

  • Physical therapy
  • Splinting
  • Casting
  • Manipulation

When conservative treatment options for elbow contracture fail to provide relief, surgery may be suggested. Capsular Release is a surgical procedure that can be performed through an open incision or arthroscopically. Your surgeon will recommend the appropriate surgical technique based on your condition.

Post-surgery, your surgeon will provide you with specific instructions based on the type of repair and their preferences. Generally, you will have a bandage from your shoulder to your hand, and a catheter will be placed for administering a brachial plexus block anesthetic. Physical therapy will begin soon after surgery, and you will need to keep your elbow elevated to reduce swelling. You should also keep your incisions clean and dry, and follow the physical therapy directions carefully for optimal results. Additionally, eating a healthy diet and quitting smoking can promote healing.

Risks and complications 

Arthroscopic Elbow Capsular Release is a generally safe surgical procedure with a low incidence of major complications. However, like any surgical procedure, there are potential risks such as infection and nerve damage. For more information on various elbow conditions and injuries, including arthritis, fractures, tendinitis, and nerve entrapment, please click on the topics listed below to visit the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons' website, OrthoInfo.

Arthritis of the Elbow

  • Biceps tendinitis
  • Broken arm
  • Colles' fracture
  • Dislocated Elbow
  • Elbow Bursitis
  • Elbow Fractures in Children
  • Erb's Palsy (Brachial Plexus Injury)
  • Forearm Fractures in Children
  • Olecranon (Elbow) Fractures
  • Radial Head Fractures
  • Rupture of the biceps tendon
  • Tendonitis
  • Tennis Elbow
  • Throwing injuries in the elbow
  • Ulnar nerve entrapment