Understanding Arthrofibrosis

Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Photo of someone jogging down a track.

Arthrofibrosis is a condition that affects the joints and can significantly impact a person's mobility and quality of life. Arthrofibrosis is characterized by excessive scar tissue formation within a joint, leading to stiffness, limited range of motion, and pain.

What is Arthrofibrosis? 

Arthrofibrosis is a pathological condition in which excessive scar tissue forms within a joint. It can occur in any joint of the body, but is most prevalent in the knee, shoulder, hip, and elbow. Scar tissue formation is a natural part of the healing process after an injury or surgery, but in arthrofibrosis, it becomes excessive and causes complications.

Causes of Arthrofibrosis 

Arthrofibrosis can arise from several factors, including: 

  • Joint Surgery: In some cases, arthrofibrosis may develop as a complication of joint surgery, such as knee replacement, ACL reconstruction, or rotator cuff repair. The excessive scar tissue formation can restrict joint movement and cause stiffness. 
  • Trauma: Severe joint injuries, fractures, or dislocations can trigger arthrofibrosis if the healing process leads to an excessive buildup of scar tissue. 
  • Inflammatory Conditions: Certain inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or chronic synovitis as well as joint infections, can increase the risk of developing arthrofibrosis.

Symptoms of Arthrofibrosis

The primary symptom of arthrofibrosis is restricted joint movement or stiffness. Other common symptoms may include: 

  • Pain and discomfort during movement. 
  • Swelling, inflammation and heat around the joint. 
  • Loss of range of motion, making it difficult to perform daily activities. 

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Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing arthrofibrosis involves a thorough evaluation of the patient's medical history, physical examination, and imaging tests, such as X-rays, MRI scans, or arthroscopy. Treatment options for arthrofibrosis aim to alleviate pain, improve joint mobility, and improve muscular strength. Here are some commonly used approaches: 

  • Physical Therapy: A structured, exercised based rehabilitation program can improve function by improving joint mobility and strengthening the muscles surrounding the affected joint. 
  • Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be prescribed to reduce inflammation. 
  • Surgical Intervention: If conservative measures fail to provide relief, surgery may be considered. Procedures like arthroscopic lysis of adhesions can help remove scar tissue and restore joint function. 

Prevention and Outlook

While not all cases of arthrofibrosis can be prevented, certain steps can minimize the risk. Following an appropriate rehabilitation plan after joint surgery or injury with incremental increases in loading volume can help prevent excessive scar tissue formation. Early diagnosis and timely treatment are crucial for a favorable outcome. 


Arthrofibrosis can significantly impact joint mobility and cause pain and discomfort. Understanding its causes, recognizing its symptoms, and seeking appropriate treatment are vital for managing the condition effectively. If you suspect arthrofibrosis, consult a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation and personalized treatment plan. With proper care, many individuals with arthrofibrosis can regain function and lead active lives once again.

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