Medical Therapies for Elbow Sprains & Strains

If you have an elbow sprain or strain, your NYU Langone doctor may recommend resting the elbow, using a brace or strap, or modifying your activities for a short time to avoid stressing the injured joint. This is because some mild sprains and strains heal on their own over time.

As your elbow heals, NYU Langone doctors can advise you on how to perform your daily activities without worsening the injury.

Rest, Ice, and Compression

Your doctor may recommend a combination of rest, ice, and compression for a week or longer, depending on the severity of the elbow injury.

Resting the affected ligaments, muscles, or tendons allows the elbow time to heal and helps prevent symptoms from getting worse.

Applying ice to your elbow can reduce swelling after an injury. Your doctor may recommend icing the affected elbow 3 times a day for 15 minutes each time for 3 days.

Compression can also help reduce swelling. Your doctor may recommend using a brace to support the elbow or a strap applied just below the joint to prevent the muscles of the forearm from straining and causing pain.

Until the swelling fully subsides, doctors recommend avoiding the activity that caused the injury, as well as other activities that put stress on the elbow, such as carrying heavy items or using the affected arm to open doors. Returning to work or sports too soon can make an elbow injury worse or delay healing. It can also increase the risk of additional injury.

Your doctor determines when your elbow has healed based on relief of your symptoms.

Pain Relief Medication

If an elbow injury is causing pain, your doctor may recommend that you take an over-the-counter pain medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, while your elbow heals. Sometimes, doctors prescribe a stronger pain medication for one or two weeks to help you recover comfortably. Because these are powerful medications that mask pain while you heal, doctors at NYU Langone do not recommend using them long term.

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