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Arm Problems, Noninjury (cont.)

Check Your Symptoms

Home Treatment

If your arm problem does not require an evaluation by a doctor, you may be able to use home treatment to help relieve pain, swelling, stiffness or muscle cramps.

Home treatment for arm pain, swelling, or stiffness

  • Rest and protect a stiff or sore area. Stop, change, or take a break from any activity that may be causing your pain or soreness.
  • Ice will reduce pain and swelling. Apply ice or cold packs immediately to prevent or minimize swelling. Apply the ice or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day.
    • For the first 48 hours, avoid things that might increase swelling, such as hot showers, hot tubs, hot packs, and alcoholic beverages.
    • After 48 to 72 hours, if swelling is gone, apply heat and begin gentle exercise with the aid of moist heat to help restore and maintain flexibility. Some experts recommend alternating between heat and cold treatments.
  • Compression, or wrapping the sore area with an elastic bandage (such as an Ace wrap), will help decrease swelling. Don't wrap it too tightly, as this can cause more swelling below the affected area. Loosen the bandage if it gets too tight. Signs that the bandage is too tight include numbness, tingling, increased pain, coolness, or swelling in the area below the bandage. Talk to your doctor if you think you need to use a wrap for longer than 48 to 72 hours; a more serious problem may be present.
  • Elevate the painful area on pillows while applying ice and anytime you are sitting or lying down. Try to keep the area at or above the level of your heart to help minimize swelling.
  • Remove ringsClick here to see an illustration., bracelets, watches, or any other jewelry from your hand and arm. It will be more difficult to remove the jewelry later if swelling increases. Swelling without removal of jewelry can cause other serious problems, such as compression of nerves or restriction of blood flow.
  • Wear a slingClick here to see an illustration. if it makes you more comfortable and supports the area. If you feel you need to use a sling for more than 48 hours, discuss your symptoms with your doctor.
  • Gently massage or rub the area to relieve pain and encourage blood flow. Do not massage the area if it causes pain.
  • Do not smoke or use other tobacco products. Smoking slows healing because it decreases blood supply and delays tissue repair. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.

Home treatment for muscle cramps

  • Gently stretch the cramping muscle.
  • If you do not have swelling, you may rub or gently massage the cramp.
  • If you think your muscle cramps are brought on by exercise, heat, or dehydration, drink some extra water. If available, drink an electrolyte replacement drink (such as Gatorade or Pedialyte) diluted with water to half strength. These drinks will help replace sugar, salt, and other minerals. Be sure to read and follow any label warnings. Avoid drinks that contain caffeine or alcohol, which will cause water loss from the body.
  • Move your arms and flex your fingers and hands. Gentle motion may help with cramps brought on by exercise.
  • Make sure you are getting enough minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Most people get enough minerals eating a normal variety of foods. Talk with your doctor about taking extra calcium.
Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:

Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.

Safety tips
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
  • Carefully read and follow all directions on the medicine bottle and box.
  • Do not take more than the recommended dose.
  • Do not take a medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to it in the past.
  • If you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take it.
  • If you are or could be pregnant, do not take any medicine other than acetaminophen unless your doctor has told you to.
  • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

  • You are unable to use your arm normally.
  • Signs of infection develop.
  • Numbness or tingling develops.
  • Cool, pale skin develops.
  • Movement is not improving.
  • Symptoms continue after 2 weeks of home treatment.
  • Symptoms become more frequent or more severe.
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