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Elbow Pain Relief & Nonsurgical Treatment Options

If you have elbow pain, your doctor may recommend non-invasive treatment options. Here are a few common options you may encounter.

When it comes to relieving elbow pain, there are many different treatment options. The specific treatments chosen, and the success of these options may vary significantly based on the underlying cause of your elbow pain. Consult with your doctor to discuss the best treatment plan for you. 


Many drugs, both prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, are used to treat elbow arthritis and control pain. Common medications can include aspirin-free pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, disease modifiers (anti-rheumatologic agents), and sleep medications. Topical gels and creams can be effective as well. Ask your doctor if medication is right for you.

Physical therapy

Your doctor may suggest a physical therapy program for your elbow. Indications for physical therapy vary based on the underlying diagnosis. Your therapist may also work with you to develop a program that you can do from the comfort of your own home. Certain conditions such as epicondylitis (tendon inflammation from overuse) are more responsive to physical therapy than other conditions such as significant arthritis.

Heat/cold therapies

The use of heat or cold on the joint may provide short-term relief from pain and stiffness. Cold packs and baths help reduce inflammation and swelling, and may be useful for flare-ups. Heat assists in relaxing muscles and increasing circulation. Ask your doctor about appropriate use of ice and/or heat for your condition.


Anesthetics or other anti-inflammatory medications may be injected to numb your joint and help keep pain at bay.


Repetitive activity of any kind can aggravate elbow pain. Joints need rest to let the inflammation subside. When avoidance is not possible, alternating arms, or alternating periods of activity with periods of rest may help so your joint doesn’t tire from the stress of repeated tasks.

Mental health

Talking about your feelings with family members and friends, doing mental exercises such as meditations, staying positive, and joining local support groups may help you better manage your pain.

Nontraditional and alternative treatments

Some people with osteoarthritis take vitamins and antioxidants for joint health. There is also a variety of foods high in anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory vitamins. If you have arthritis, your doctor may prescribe other types of dietary supplements often prescribed for joint pain as well. Acupuncture and chiropractic care are also non-surgical methods that can be effective for certain conditions.

It’s extremely important for you to consult with your physician about all supplements, medications, and treatments that have been previously tried so that she or he can optimize the next treatments to help in recovery.


This article was reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Seth Gamradt, paid Zimmer Biomet consultant. 

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