Elbow Bruise

You have a bruise (contusion) of your elbow. A bruise causes local pain, swelling, and sometimes bruising. There are no broken bones. This injury takes a few days to a few weeks to heal. You may be given a sling for comfort and arm support.

You may notice color changes over the skin. It may change from reddish to bluish to greenish or yellowish before the bruising fades. The skin will then go back to its normal color.

Home care

Follow these guidelines when caring for yourself at home.

  • Keep your arm elevated to reduce pain and swelling. This is most important during the first 2 days (48 hours) after the injury.

  • Put an ice pack on the injured area. Do this for 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours the first day. You can make an ice pack by wrapping a plastic bag of ice in a thin towel. Continue to use the ice pack 3 to 4 times a day for the next 2 days. Then use the ice pack as needed to ease pain and swelling.

  • Don’t use a heating pad.

  • Don’t stick a needle into the contusion or bruising to drain it.

  • You may use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease, talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines. Also talk with your provider if you’ve had a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding.

  • If a sling was provided, you may take it off to shower or bathe. Don’t wear it for more than 1 week or it may cause joint stiffness.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised, if you are not starting to get better within the next 3 days.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Pain or swelling gets worse

  • The back of your elbow becomes very swollen where it almost looks like a golf ball or egg-like mass is growing there. This is a sign of olecrenon bursitis or septic bursitis which may need treatment right away if infected..

  • Redness, red streaks down the arm, warmth, or drainage from the bruise

  • Hand or fingers becomes cold, blue, numb, or tingly

  • New bruises, and you don’t know what caused them

  • Bruise doesn’t heal

  • Can't move wrist, hand, or fingers correctly

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