When to see a doctor

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Get medical help right away or go to the emergency room if you have:

  • An unusual angle or severe change in your elbow, especially if you also have bleeding or other injuries.
  • A bone that you can see.

See your health care provider as soon as possible if you have:

  • A sudden injury to your elbow, especially if you hear a snap or cracking sound.
  • Severe pain, swelling and bruising around the joint.
  • Trouble moving your elbow or using your arm as you usually can or turning your arm from palm up to palm down and back again.

Make an appointment with your health care provider if you have:

  • Elbow pain that doesn't get better after care at home.
  • Pain that occurs even when you're not using your arm.
  • Worsening redness, swelling or pain in the elbow.


Most elbow pain improves with care at home using P.R.I.C.E. treatment:

  • Protect. Keep the area from getting more injury with a brace or splint.
  • Rest. Avoid the activity that caused your injury. Then begin mild use and stretching as recommended by your health care provider.
  • Ice. Place an ice pack on the sore area for 15 to 20 minutes three times a day.
  • Compression. Use a stretchy bandage, sleeve or wrap around the area to reduce swelling and provide support.
  • Elevation. Keep your arm raised to help lessen swelling.

Try pain relievers you can buy without a prescription. Products you put on your skin, such as creams, patches and gels, may help. Some examples are products that include menthol, lidocaine or diclofenac sodium (Voltaren Arthritis Pain). You also can try oral pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve).

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April 29, 2023