For a smooth recovery, do your homework before surgery:

  • Talk to your employer about your plans to return to work with restrictions or part-time at first.
  • Respect the healing process; it takes time.

For the first 2-3 days:

Controlling the Pain: The novocaine inside your elbow will keep it numb for 8-12 hours after surgery.

    • The most important way to control pain is to properly support your arm, and keep it elevated.
      • Rest your arm on a stack of pillows at your side, so your hand is higher than your shoulder.
      • Adjust the sling while standing up; gravity will help you and your upper arm will hang comfortably.
      • Adjust the neck strap so your hand is slightly higher than your elbow, and the elbow is tucked deep in the pocket.
      • Wear the sling when up and around. You can take it off while sitting, resting or showering.
      • Wear shirts that button up the front. Treat your elbow with respect, but realize it’s not fragile.
    • Place a LARGE ice pack around your elbow 20 minutes every 3-4 hours. Fill a gallon-sized zippered plastic bag with ice cubes, or buy several LARGE gel-packs that you can rotate through the freezer.
    • Medication: Take your pain medicine (usually Hydrocodone [Vicodin] or Oxycodone [Percocet]) as prescribed for the first 2-3 days, then cut back as you feel better. 
Switch to over-the-counter acetaminophen (Tylenol), 500mg, up to 2 tabs, 3 times a day after this runs out.

Anti-Inflammatories: Along with the pain medicine, you can also take:

  • Over-the-counter ibuprofen (Advil) OR naproxen (Aleve) according to package instructions.
  • Your prescription anti-inflammatory medication as prescribed:_________________
  • Do NOT take any anti-inflammatory medication because of your other medical issues

Take care of the dressing:

  • For the first 48 hours, keep your postop dressing clean and dry. Cover it with a plastic bag to shower.
  • On the second day after surgery remove the outer dressing, wash your arm and pat it dry. Leave the paper tapes in place until the 2 week postop visit.
  • Do NOT soak your arm until your 2-week postop visit. You can shower; cover your arm with a plastic bag.
  • Wrap your armwith the Ace bandage: a little snug to compress the surgical area, not too tight. Or, get a “shooting sleeve” from the sporting-goods store (a lycra arm sleeve that basketball players wear, about $20. With or without the elbow pad, whatever’s comfortable.)


  • Move your neck, elbows, wrists, fingers 10 times, 3 times a day. Squeeze a rubber ball to pump your hand.
  • You can use your hand for light activities like holding a toothbrush or a pencil, buttering toast or light typing. Lifting 1-2 pounds is OK. Don’t overdo it.
  • Avoid leaning on your elbow.
  • Gradually increase how much, and for how long, you use your arm…use your symptoms as a guide.

For the next 3-14 days:

  • Elevate your arm while resting to let any swelling drain back into circulation. Pain and swelling at this stage mean you’re overdoing it!
  • Switch from ice to warm compresses if it feels better.
  • You can leave the stitches open to the air while resting. Wrap your arm to control swelling when up and around.
  • You might have a lot of bruising. Warm compresses and gentle exercise will help.
  • You can cut your pain medication dose as you feel better: cut the pills in half, or take them less often.
  • It’s OK to drive after 3-5 days if you are confident about controlling your car. Use common sense.
Pendulums: A relaxing way to keep your shoulder from getting stiff.

  • Bend forward at the waist, using a table or countertop for support.
  • Let your arm relax and hang limply in front of your body.
  • Rock your body back and forth, then in a circle, to move arm North-South, East-West, Clockwise, Counter-clockwise.
  • Do 10 arcs in each direction, 3 times/day. The arcs will get bigger each day.
Keep Everything Moving:

  • Don’t let the rest of your muscles shut down while your elbow heals!
  • Ride a stationary bike or do other lower-body exercises.
  • Take a walk; wear your sling or support your arm by resting your hand in your coat pocket.

At 2 weeks after surgery:

  • We’ll check the incision and you’ll start exercises to recondition your arm.
  • You might have a lot of bruising around your elbow and forearm. Warm compresses and gentle exercise will help.
  • We’ll talk about your plans to return to work, so be sure to speak to your employer about any restrictions or paperwork that might be necessary.
  • Some patients need to go to Physical Therapy after elbow surgery, some don’t. We’ll talk about what’s best for you

What are some problems to watch out for?

    • Some patients get very constipated after surgery. If you are nauseated and/or don’t have a bowel movement within 2-3 days postop: drink plenty of water or fruit juice, try over-the-counter laxative like Senokot, go for a walk.
    • You’re having extreme pain that’s not relieved with rest, proper positioning or your prescribed medication.
    • You’re having a fever over 101.5, or your arm is hot, red and very painful.
    • You’re having problems with prescribed medications, with the dressing, or with any issue about your recovery that can’t wait until your follow-up visit.
    • You’re having problems with prescribed medications, with the dressing, or with any issue about your recovery that can’t wait until your follow-up visit.
  • Call the office: 585-271-4272 (or for emergencies after-hours: Dr. Siegrist’s cell phone 585-329-3308 or our answering service 585-723-6566).