Sports Medicine SelfCareNavigator:
Elbow (Olecranon) Bursitis

Self-Care At Home for Elbow (Olecranon) Bursitis

  • Avoid prolonged pressure or leaning on the tip of your elbow.
  • Avoid further injury, even minimal bumping, to the back or tip of your elbow.
  • Use a soft elbow pad to cushion and protect the back of the elbow. The compression from wearing the elbow pad may prevent further swelling and help resolve the swelling you have.
    • You can usually find elbow pads at sporting goods stores, general merchandise retailers or online.
    • Elbow Bursitis IllustrationThose with a small, foam pad held in place by an elastic or cloth wrap work best (Figure 2).
    • Wear the pad day and night initially, with short breaks as needed. As the swelling goes down, wear the pad only when you are likely to bump or irritate your elbow.
    • If you can’t get an elbow paid, use an elastic wrap or sleeve to compress swelling and prevent further swelling. Wear the wrap as much as you need to until the swelling goes down, but be sure not to put it on so tightly that your forearm or fingers become numb or discolored.
  • You may take ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) or naproxen (Aleve®) for swelling and pain. (See labels for dose and risks.)
  • Place an ice pack or cold pack over the back of your elbow for 20 minutes, three to six times daily to decrease pain and swelling. You may hold it in place with an elastic wrap.
      • Place a thin washcloth between the cold pack and your skin to minimize the risk of frostbite.
      • If you are busy, you may choose to ice during meals so as to save time and avoid interrupting other activities.


  • Avoid prolonged pressure or repeated leaning on the tip of your elbow.
  • Use a small foam pad if you need to lean on the tip of your elbows frequently.

For More Information


  • McFarland EG: Miscellaneous conditions about the elbow in athletes. Clinics in Sports Medicine.23(4): 743-763, 2004
  • Melhoff T: Elbow Injuries. In Mellion M, Walsh WM, Madden C et al: Team Physician’s Handbook, P418-426, Hanley & Belfus, Philadelphia, 2002.

Last reviewed: October 2007
Last revised: October 2007

CU Dept of Obstetrics and Gynecology LogoFavorably reviewed by The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine.

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