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What Are the Different Ways to Treat a Swollen Elbow?

Dan Cavallari
By
Updated May 17, 2024
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Specific ways to treat a swollen elbow may vary according to the cause of the swelling, but in many cases, the treatments will be quite similar. Very often, the RICE treatment is used to reduce the swelling and any accompanying pain. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. These actions help keep swelling to a minimum and help stimulate blood flow to the affected area. If swelling persists or pain worsens, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible to find out what the cause of the pain is, and the best way to treat a swollen elbow in that particular instance.

Tendinitis in the elbow is a common cause of swelling. To treat a swollen elbow suffering from tendinitis, which occurs when the tendons that connect muscles to bones become inflamed, the RICE treatment should be used first. If that does not work, a doctor can prescribe anti-inflammatory medications, or even give an injection of steroids. The person suffering from the tendinitis will need to think carefully about what may have caused the condition in the first place; it is very often a result of repetitive movements, unnatural movements, or even a lack of conditioning and exercise. Regular stretching will be necessary to treat a swollen elbow from tendinitis and to prevent the condition from recurring.

Bursitis occurs when a bursa, or a fluid-filled sac in a joint, becomes inflamed. This can lead to swelling, irritation, or pain in the elbow. The RICE treatment can also be used in this case, though in some severe cases, the bursa may need to be drained of fluid to prevent further damage to other parts of the elbow. The bursa can rub on tendons, muscles, or even bone and cartilage, leading to more pain, discomfort, and altered joint movement.

Direct trauma is perhaps the most common cause of swelling in the elbow, and again, the RICE treatment should be used to treat a swollen elbow in this instance. The injury may have led to damage to the muscles, tendons, cartilage, or bones, so a doctor's visit may be necessary if pain and swelling persists. A bone fracture can lead to swelling, and while most minor to moderate fractures can be treated by immobilizing the joint until the bone heals, more severe fractures may require surgery and the insertion of pins or plates to repair the damage. This can be a painful condition, and the recovery period can be protracted.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Dan Cavallari
By Dan Cavallari , Former Writer
Dan Cavallari, a talented writer, editor, and project manager, crafts high-quality, engaging, and informative content for various outlets and brands. With a degree in English and certifications in project management, he brings his passion for storytelling and project management expertise to his work, launching and growing successful media projects. His ability to understand and communicate complex topics effectively makes him a valuable asset to any content creation team.

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Dan Cavallari

Dan Cavallari

Former Writer

Dan Cavallari, a talented writer, editor, and project manager, crafts high-quality, engaging, and informative content for various outlets and brands. With a degree in English and certifications in project management, he brings his passion for storytelling and project management expertise to his work, launching and growing successful media projects. His ability to understand and communicate complex topics effectively makes him a valuable asset to any content creation team.
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