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Elbow Problems, Noninjury

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Home Treatment

Most minor elbow problems go away on their own. Home treatment is usually all that is needed to relieve your symptoms.

Home treatment for minor problems

Home treatment may help relieve pain, swelling, and stiffness.

  • If you have swelling, remove all rings camera.gif, bracelets, watches, or any other jewelry that goes around your wrist or fingers of the affected arm. It will be harder to remove the jewelry later if swelling increases.
  • Use rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) to treat pain and swelling.
  • Wear a sling if it makes you more comfortable and supports your elbow. If you feel you need to use a sling for longer than 48 hours, discuss your symptoms with your doctor.
  • An elbow support, such as an elbow sleeve, forearm wrap, or arm sling, may help rest your elbow joint, relieve stress on forearm muscles, and protect the joint area during an activity. A counterforce brace may be helpful for tennis elbow symptoms. Follow the manufacturer's directions for using the brace.
  • Gently massage or rub the area to relieve pain and encourage blood flow. Do not massage the elbow if it causes pain.
  • 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 hot and cold treatments.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking slows healing because it decreases blood supply and delays tissue repair. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:

Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.

Safety tips
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
  • Carefully read and follow all directions on the medicine bottle and box.
  • Do not take more than the recommended dose.
  • Do not take a medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to it in the past.
  • If you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take it.
  • If you are or could be pregnant, do not take any medicine other than acetaminophen unless your doctor has told you to.
  • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

  • Pain or swelling develops.
  • Signs of infection develop.
  • Numbness, tingling, or cool, pale, skin develops.
  • Symptoms become more severe or more frequent.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 18, 2013
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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