Elbow Bruise

You have a bruise (contusion) of your elbow. A bruise causes local pain and swelling. 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. 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.

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. To make an ice pack, put ice cubes in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the bag in a thin towel or cloth before using it. Don’t put ice or an ice pack directly on the skin. Keep using the ice pack 3 to 4 times a day for the next 2 days. Then use it 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. Also if wearing a sling, make sure that your hand is above the level of your elbow. Otherwise your hand will get swollen and possibly black and blue.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider as advised. Also follow up if you're not starting to get better within the next 3 days.

When to get 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 elbow bursitis. This may need treatment right away if infected (called septic bursitis).

  • 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

© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
Powered by Krames Patient Education - A Product of StayWell