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Elbow Sprain


An elbow sprain is caused by a stretched or torn ligament in the elbow joint. Ligaments are the strong tissues that connect bones.


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:

Ice your elbow to help decrease swelling and pain. Put crushed ice in a plastic bag and cover it with a towel. Put the ice on your elbow for 15 to 20 minutes every hour. Do this for as many days as directed.

Compress your elbow:

Compression (tight hold) 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:

Keep your injured arm and elbow raised above the level of your heart to help decrease pain and swelling. Use pillows, blankets, or rolled towels to elevate your elbow as often as you can.


  • Pain medicine: You may be given medicine to decrease or take away pain. Do not wait until the pain is too bad before you take your medicine.

  • Take your medicine as directed: Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are taking any vitamins, herbs, or other medicines. Keep a list of the medicines you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits.

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 what kind of exercises you should do.

Prevent another injury:

  • 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 primary healthcare provider within 1 week:

Write down any questions you have so you remember to ask them in your follow-up visits.

Contact your primary healthcare provider 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 injury or treatment.

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.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.