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Radio-humeral Joint Synovitis Elbow Pain Physiotherapy
What Is Radiohumeral Synovitis?
first understand what radiohumeral means.
radiohumeral joint is one of the three main joints in the elbow. It is situated
between the radial head and the capitulum of the humerus. Part hinged and part
ball-and-socket joint, the radiohumeral joint is the joint that stabilizes and enables movement between the
humerus and radius.
coming to synovitis, it is the medical term for the inflammation of the
The synovium, also called the synovial membrane, refers to the
connective tissues that line the joint cavities (commonly known as synovial
purpose of this inner lining is to support and protect the joint during
movement. It does this by secreting a viscous liquid, i.e., synovial fluid that
acts as a lubricant and prevents damage to the joint cartilage due to friction.
is found in various joints in your body, including the
- shoulder, and of course,
If it becomes inflamed due to any
reason, it is known as synovitis.
can make your joints ache, especially when you move it. The knees are usually more susceptible to
synovitis, but it can occur in the elbow as well.
the synovial lining becomes inflamed, it also irritates the surrounding nerves
and tissues. This can make the joint swell and sensitive to touch. In most
cases, synovitis can cause bleeding in the joint, which further aggravates the
and prolonged synovitis can progress into soft tissue degeneration or, worse,
of the radiohumeral (RH) joint is a painful elbow condition marked by:
- Redness, and
- Decreased joint mobility.
usually develops in patients with arthritis, but there are several factors that
can contribute to this type of joint pain.
this article, we take a detailed look at what RH synovitis is. We discuss its
symptoms, causes, treatment options, and why physiotherapy is a viable rehab.
Side Note: Synovitis vs. Arthritis
people confuse synovitis with arthritis. While both these conditions have to do
with joint inflammation, they are actually different.
can think of synovitis as a type of active inflammatory arthritis. Although
arthritis affects joints, it does not always irritate the synovial membrane.
other words, synovitis can occur in combination with arthritis and related
conditions like gout and lupus, or simply on its own.
What Causes Synovitis of the RH Joint?
Several factors can cause inflammation of the synovium
in the radiohumeral joint.
They can be broadly classified into two main
categories: structural damage and medical conditions that affect the synovial
lining in joints.
When RH synovitis develops independently, it is
usually due to structural damage, such as a labrum tear or ligament strain
caused by direct trauma or joint overuse.
Medical conditions that can result in synovitis in
the elbow include rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus,
and other auto-immune diseases wherein your body can mistakenly attack the
The most common causes of RH synovitis typically
- Repetitive strain injury
- Arterial bleeds
- Overworking or overloading the
- Previous hand or elbow injury
- Infections, such as tuberculosis,
psoriatic or septic arthritis
Symptoms of Radiohumeral Synovitis
The symptoms of elbow synovitis vary depending on
the major cause of the inflammation. However, most people experience the
- Pain in the elbow – Ranging
from mild to severe, the pain can be persistent or can come and go on its own.
- Swelling – Inflammation of the synovium
leads to an increase in fluid production. With the buildup of synovial fluid,
the tissues lining the joint become thickened, and your elbow becomes swelled.
- Redness and warmth – When the
synovium is irritated, your body sends more blood to the affected area. This
can give you a feeling of warmth or a tingling sensation in the joint. At
times, there might be red patches on the skin resulting from internal bleeding.
The elbow looks puffy and feels boggy to the touch.
- Loss of elbow joint movement or mobility –
Synovitis can affect hand dexterity and grip strength. Patients might find it
difficult to perform certain motions, such as pinching an object between their
thumb and fingers.
- Increased body temperature – People
with synovitis can develop a fever, especially when there’s an active bleed.
Who are At Risk of Developing elbow radio-humeral Synovitis?
RH synovitis is common in older adults, particularly
if they have arthritis.
This condition is also associated with some specific
sporting activities that involve excessive flexion and extension of the elbow—for
According to medical research, certain factors can
increase your risk of developing synovitis.
- Gender – Women are generally more likely
to develop synovitis than men.
- Age – Synovitis can occur at any age,
but people above the age of 40 years are usually more susceptible to this
- Genetics – If someone in your family has
synovitis or any kind of arthritis, it increases your chances of developing
this problem too.
- Smoking – In many cases, an association
between smoking and synovitis has been observed.
- Obesity – People who are overweight or eat
a lot of junk food may be at a higher risk of experiencing synovium
Other Conditions That Are Similar to Synovitis of the RH
Elbow pain due to radiohumeral synovitis can be
confused with many other lateral elbow conditions, such as:
Hand dexterity or reduced joint mobility due to
radiohumeral synovitis can also mimic the symptoms of osteoporosis and
Joint bleeds in the elbow are usually the primary
pointers of synovitis of the RH joint.
However, arterial bleeding in the
synovium is not a common symptom and mostly occurs in extreme cases only.
Treatment of Radiohumeral Synovitis
Synovitis that occurs due to physical damage to the
joint can sometimes go away on its own. However, if the symptoms persist,
treatment must be expedited.
The underlying cause of the inflammation dictates
the treatment plan for this condition.
The treatment for radiohumeral synovitis typically
begins with diagnostic tests. Your doctor will aim to identify the cause of the
pain by first determining whether or not it’s true synovitis.
True synovitis means the symptoms are actually
caused by inflammation of the synovial membrane. At times, inflammation of the
surrounding joint tissues can imitate the signs of RH synovitis. The correct
medical term for this condition is tendonitis.
Patients are often referred to get an x-ray of the
elbow or undergo an MRI scan as it helps doctors rule out differential
diagnoses and identify the extent of joint damage.
Synovial Fluid Analysis
The synovial fluid analysis helps determine if the
inflammation might be caused by diseases like arthritis.
It takes about 30
minutes and requires no former preparations. The physician draws a sample of
the joint fluid in the elbow and sends it for lab examination.
The treatment for radiohumeral synovitis commonly
involves the administration of anti-inflammatory medications.
NSAIDs, such as
aspirin and ibuprofen, are often injected directly in the affected area for
targeted action. Sometimes, medicines for pain management might also include
oral drugs called Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs).
Although steroid injections are a popular method for
controlling pain due to synovitis, remember that it is not a cure.
If conservative methods fail to bring relief,
patients with synovitis might eventually have to consider surgical treatment.
is referred to as synovectomy and can be of two types:
- Arthroscopic synovectomy – Involves the removal of
the inflamed part of the synovial membrane. This helps reduce joint
bleeding and protects the elbow from degenerating.
- Radionuclide synovectomy – Here, a low-level
radioactive substance is administered directly into the radiohumeral
joint. The radiation gradually melts away the irritated membrane,
preventing further synovium damage.
How phoenix rehab hand therapy and Physiotherapy Can Help People with elbow Radiohumeral
While it might not be possible to prevent synovitis,
especially in patients with a known rheumatologic disease, it is, however, possible
to slow it down.
Physiotherapy can have a beneficial effect,
particularly in terms of alleviating pain, improving joint mobility, and increasing
At Pheonix Rehab, we use
special mobilization techniques in combination with conservative pain
management methods to help our clients make a fast and effective recovery.
Our treatment for radiohumeral synovitis involves stretching
and strengthening exercises that gradually restore healthy joint function in
the elbow, wrist, and hands. Isometrics are often incorporated for their
Physical therapy for synovitis typically utilizes an
active range of pain-free movements to stimulate the production of healthy
synovial fluid. Synovial fluid promotes the natural healing of the inflamed
membrane, which, in turn, reduces pain and improves joint mobility.
Our qualified and trained physiotherapists perform a
detailed assessment to figure out a comprehensive management strategy for
synovitis. The overall treatment is geared towards controlling inflammation at
the root, strengthening the joints and muscles, and increasing flexibility so that
this condition doesn’t keep you from doing what you love.
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Phoenix Rehab Group works with specialist physiotherapists and rehab therapists who are highly trained, qualified, experienced and passionate to provide high level of expert care to our patients.
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Patients who sustained injuries to their elbows, forearms, hands, wrists
(sprains and fractures) and fingers, usually will benefit / require Hand Therapy to
- manage and decrease hand pains
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following injuries or post-operations
Commonly treated hand pain injuries includes
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Clinical Pilates is a form of physical exercise that focuses on posture, core stability, balance, control, strength, flexibility and breathing.
It is a system of safe and effective exercises, which
meet specific individual needs, to treat a wide range of injuries
You may do Pilates as matwork or with the reformer or both, and every session will be customized 100% to your fitness, injury and tolerance.
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Sports and deep tissue release massage helps to increase nutrient-rich blood
flow to tired, tight and tense muscles to accelerate recovery and shorten downtime / recovery period required.
It also prevents
muscles from scar tissue micro-tears (and potential ruptures), and increases muscle
performance. Having regular deep tissue and sports massage will keep your muscles healthy and fit with body/movement-confidence.
Read the benefits of regular deep tissue release therapy here.
All our allied health therapists and TCM physicians are fully insured and registered with Allied Health Professions Council (AHPC) and Traditional Chinese Medicine Board (TCMB).
See our entire team here with introductions and their specializations.
At the first session, our specialist physiotherapists will carry out a thorough
assessment, helping them to select the most appropriate treatment to
help you recover as well as provide treatment in the same session.
Follow up sessions are inline to provide
expert treatment for your pain as well as prescribing specific
exercises to reduce your risk of re-injury and giving you a long term
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