Rheumatoid Arthritis – Potential Good News on my Elbow

For those who don’t know, my elbow took a beating about 7 years ago.  I was carrying my son into the house from the car in his carseat/baby carrier.  My elbow suddenly went “pop.”  It hurt horribly for about 5 seconds, then didn’t hurt anymore, but it never straightened again. 

Things to know:  my elbows have been great throughout my entire 17 years with RA.  There have maybe been 2 times when they’ve caused me mild pain, for maybe a couple of hours.  They (along with my back) were my “go to” joints to abuse for many years… because they WORKED!  I never went to the doctor about it, thinking it would heal on its own,, and the rest of my body was in terrible condition RA-wise at the time.

Fast forward 7 years.  I’m trying to exercise, to get my neck muscles stronger to support my neck/spine instabilities.  This involves using my arms, and my elbow is not happy about it.  Suddenly, it was getting worse, waking me at night every time I exercised.  My right elbow remains fine.  I talked to my rheumy about it for probably a year and finally decided something needed to be done.  After seeing an orthopedic surgeon (who didn’t even want to look at it, saying it was such an old injury that nothing could be done, and he thought it was from muscle contractures due to RA), he relented and ordered an MRI.  Given that it’s getting worse when I exercise, I argued that I should at least know what’s going on. 

It’s been a couple of weeks since I had the MRI, and nothing from the surgeon.  Then out of the blue, my rheumy called tonight.  He said he had seen the MRI and wanted to make sure the surgeon had called me with the results (which of course, he hadn’t).  I’m glad I argued about the MRI, as this might be treatable.  The rheumy said that this could be RA or an injury.  I had a torn ligament, although he was unclear how badly it was torn (but probably not completely).  I had a ton of fluid in my elbow and my bone was swollen.  He said this was indicative of RA, but could also be indicative of an injury and re-injury.  He said he thought more likely RA, even though I’ve been doing so well.  I, of course, don’t think that, but likely an injury/RA combination, more injury than RA.  The point is, he thinks that draining the fluid, and injecting with a steroid to treat the bone inflammation might bring back a portion of my range, but it probably still won’t straighten all the way.  I still have to talk to the surgeon about the torn ligament and any implications it may have.  I think I might also talk to my physical therapist, as she might have some insight into what the joint stability might be like after draining fluid that may have been there for a long time.

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