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Arm Problems,Noninjury

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Home Treatment

If your arm problem does not require an evaluation by a doctor, you may be able to use home treatment to help relieve pain, swelling, stiffness or muscle cramps.

Home treatment for arm pain, swelling, or stiffness

  • Rest and protect a stiff or sore area. Stop, change, or take a break from any activity that may be causing your pain or soreness.
  • Ice will reduce pain and swelling. Apply ice or cold packs immediately to prevent or minimize swelling. Apply the ice or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day.
    • For the first 48 hours, avoid things that might increase swelling, such as hot showers, hot tubs, hot packs, and alcoholic beverages.
    • After 48 to 72 hours, if swelling is gone, apply heat and begin gentle exercise with the aid of moist heat to help restore and maintain flexibility. Some experts recommend alternating between heat and cold treatments.
  • Compression, or wrapping the sore area with an elastic bandage (such as an Ace wrap), will help decrease swelling. Don't wrap it too tightly, since this can cause more swelling below the affected area. Loosen the bandage if it gets too tight. Signs that the bandage is too tight include numbness, tingling, increased pain, coolness, or swelling in the area below the bandage. Talk to your doctor if you think you need to use a wrap for longer than 48 to 72 hours; a more serious problem may be present.
  • Elevate the painful area on pillows while applying ice and anytime you are sitting or lying down. Try to keep the area at or above the level of your heart to help minimize swelling.
  • Remove rings camera.gif, bracelets, watches, or any other jewelry from your hand and arm. It will be more difficult to remove the jewelry later if swelling increases. Swelling without removal of jewelry can cause other serious problems, such as compression of nerves or restriction of blood flow.
  • Wear a sling camera.gif if it makes you more comfortable and supports the area. If you feel you need to use a sling for more than 48 hours, discuss your symptoms with your doctor.
  • Gently massage or rub the area to relieve pain and encourage blood flow. Do not massage the area if it causes pain.
  • Do not smoke or use other tobacco products. Smoking slows healing because it decreases blood supply and delays tissue repair. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 27, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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