An elbow sprain is caused by a stretched or torn ligament in the elbow joint. Ligaments are the strong tissues that connect bones.
Return to the emergency department if:
- The skin of your injured arm looks bluish or pale (less color than normal).
- You have new or increased numbness in your injured arm.
Call your doctor if:
- You have increased swelling and pain in your elbow.
- You have new or increased stiffness or trouble moving your injured arm.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
- Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
- Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Rest your elbow:
You will need to rest your elbow for 1 to 2 days after your injury. This will help decrease the risk of more damage to your elbow.
Ice your elbow:
Apply ice on your elbow for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
Compress your elbow:
Compression provides support and helps decrease swelling and movement so your elbow can heal. You may be told to keep your elbow wrapped with a tight elastic bandage. Follow instructions about how to apply your bandage.
Elevate your elbow:
Elevate your elbow above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your elbow on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.
Exercise your elbow:
You should begin to exercise your arm in a few days, once you are able to move your elbow without pain. Exercises will help decrease stiffness and improve the strength of your arm. Ask your healthcare provider what kind of exercises you should do.
Prevent another elbow sprain:
- Make sure you warm up and stretch before you exercise.
- Do not exercise when you feel pain or you are tired.
- Wear equipment to protect yourself when you play sports.
- Stop exercising and playing sports if your symptoms from a past injury return.
Follow up with your doctor within 1 week:
Write down any questions you have so you remember to ask them in your follow-up visits.