Rheumatoid Disease – My Elbow

I’ve had rheumatoid disease for 17 years.  My elbows, strangely, have had very little RA activity.  I’m thinking there may have been 2 times in 17 years they may have hurt.  With that said, one day, around 2006, I was carrying my son in his infant car seat/carrier with the handle in the crook of my elbow.  Out of nowhere, I had this sudden awful pop with extreme pain.  It lasted only a few seconds, but my elbow never straightened again.  After the pop was over, it didn’t hurt either.  At the time, I think I thought it would heal on its own after a few days.  But it didn’t.  It really didn’t.  And with the extreme flare I was having, this issue didn’t even register on the “problem” list.

I let the issue go, as it didn’t bother me, and does it really matter if my elbow doesn’t straighten?  Fast forward several years, and yes, it matters.  As I started my exercise program, I started noticing pain in my elbow, pretty mild.  Fast forward 2 more years, and exercise is rather irritating my elbow, which now seems to also set off a tiny spot in my shoulder.

I finally had enough.  I’ve been trying to get more stability in my neck by building muscle, but this involves arm work, and hence elbow/shoulder issues.  I finally saw an orthopedic surgeon today, based on my rheumatologist’s recommendation.  Well, I was disappointed.


They did an xray, which showed no reason for my elbow not moving.  My joint space is a little more narrowed than normal (duh, I’ve had rheumatoid for 17 years!), but nothing too scary.  2 doctors looked at it.  They didn’t seem to agree 100%.  Doc #2 (the guy in charge) thought it was soft tissue damage/contractures of the elbow muscles.  He said normally they’d do an MRI pre-surgery to figure out what was going on, but because this issue was so old, I probably wasn’t a surgery candidate, and the MRI wouldn’t be purposeful.  I questioned that stating that obviously this is worsening, and I’d like to know what’s going on so I can limit its impact.  He pondered that, then agreed to refer me for an MRI.  It concerns me that he was very willing to write the whole thing off as hopeless without investigating what’s actually going on.  They both seemed quite shocked that there was a pop, and then my range of motion was immediately gone.  They both seemed to think that couldn’t happen (it would have gradually been lost over time I think is what they thought), and I must be crazy.  Doctor #1 also talked about some potential bicep tearing and a possible labrum tear in my shoulder.  Don’t exactly know what that is yet, and they gave me no advice on it, so I guess I’m pinning a lot on the MRI.

So, should your elbow ever go POP and not straighten, get your butt to the doc right away.  <sigh>  I hate learning lessons the hard way!

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