The first step in just about all ways to treat a sore elbow is to determine what is causing the pain in the first place. Pain and soreness in the elbow can be caused by simple overuse, or it may be caused by something more serious such as tendinitis. Soreness may also be caused by arthritis, bone fractures, muscle strains and tears, and ligament sprains and tears. It may be necessary to visit a doctor to determine the cause of the soreness, though in many cases the best way to treat a sore elbow quickly and efficiently is by using the RICE treatment.
RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. The purpose of this method to treat a sore elbow is to prevent swelling, allow the injured or affected area to heal, and to promote blood flow to the affected area that will in turn quicken the healing process and help reduce pain. This method may be combined with the use of painkilling medication to dull the pain, though it is important to read the instructions for such medications before taking them. It is also important to remember that taking pain medications is not a solution or treatment for an injury; it is simply a stop-gap measure to help dull pain during the treatment process.
If the RICE treatment does not work, or the soreness persists for more than a few days, it is likely that a doctor's visit will be necessary to treat a sore elbow. Conditions like tendinitis can lead to a sore elbow, and such a condition can worsen over time if left untreated. Most instances of tendinitis can be treated with the RICE treatment or with injections of steroids or anti-inflammatory medications, but if the problem persists or becomes chronic, a doctor may recommend surgery to remedy the problem. This is considered a last resort for this condition, and the recovery time may vary.
If arthritis is present in the elbow, there is no cure, but pain management is an option. A doctor may prescribe regular stretching and exercise as well as anti-inflammatory medication to treat a sore elbow resulting from arthritis. If an injury such as a bone fracture or muscle tear is present in the elbow, the treatment may vary according to the severity of the injury. If these conditions are present, the elbow will often be more than just sore; the sufferer will feel pain, tightness, weakness, or other discomfort.