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Home > Living Well > Health Library > Elbow Problems, Noninjury
At one time or another, everyone has had an elbow problem that may have caused pain or swelling. Most of the time our body movements don't cause problems. But sometimes symptoms develop from everyday wear and tear or overuse.
Elbow problems can be minor or serious. They may include symptoms such as pain, swelling, numbness, tingling, weakness, or changes in temperature or color. Home treatment often can relieve minor aches and pains.
Most people may not remember having a specific injury when their symptoms get worse over time. But these overuse problems are actual injuries. They occur when too much stress is placed on a joint or other tissue. This can happen when you overdo an activity or repeat an activity over and over. Overuse injuries include:
Treatment for an elbow problem may include first aid and a brace, splint, or cast. It also may include physical therapy or medicine.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
When an area turns blue, very pale, or cold, it can mean that there has been a sudden change in the blood supply to the area. This can be serious.
There are other reasons for color and temperature changes. Bruises often look blue. A limb may turn blue or pale if you leave it in one position for too long, but its normal color returns after you move it. What you are looking for is a change in how the area looks (it turns blue or pale) and feels (it becomes cold to the touch), and this change does not go away.
Pain in adults and older children
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Pain in children 3 years and older
Symptoms of infection may include:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Try the following tips to help relieve elbow pain, swelling, and stiffness.
Remove rings, bracelets, watches, and any other jewelry that goes around the wrist or fingers of the affected arm. It will be hard to remove the jewelry after swelling starts.
It's important to rest and protect the affected 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 right away to prevent or reduce swelling. Apply the ice or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day.
Compression, or wrapping the area with an elastic bandage (such as an Ace wrap), will help reduce swelling. Don't wrap it too tightly, because that 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, and swelling in the area below the bandage.
Try to keep the area at or above the level of your heart to help reduce swelling. Prop up the area on pillows while you apply ice and anytime you sit or lie down.
Wear a sling if it makes you more comfortable and supports your elbow.
Use an elbow support, such as an elbow sleeve or forearm wrap. It 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 directions on the package for using the brace.
For 48 hours, avoid things that might increase swelling. These things include hot showers, hot tubs, hot packs, and drinks that contain alcohol.
After 48 to 72 hours, if your swelling is gone, apply heat. You can start gentle exercise with the aid of moist heat to help restore and keep flexibility. Some experts advise switching between heat and cold treatments.
Gently massage or rub the affected area to relieve pain and encourage blood flow. Don't massage the area if it causes pain.
Smoking slows healing because it decreases blood supply and delays tissue repair.
If you need to use a wrap or sling for more than 48 hours, you may have a more serious injury that needs to be checked by a doctor.
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Current as of:
March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
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