Elbow Pain

Elbow pain has many common causes, including inflammation and injuries to your elbow joint and its surrounding soft tissues, like the ligaments and tendons. You can usually treat elbow pain at home with some simple TLC. If your pain persists, it’s best to see a healthcare provider to rule out a more serious health condition.


What is elbow pain?

Elbow pain is just what it sounds like — pain in and around your elbow. You may have inside elbow pain, outside elbow pain or deep elbow

joint pain

. You may have left elbow pain, right elbow pain or pain in both elbows. It may affect you when you’re lifting something, straightening your arm or bending your arm. It may be a sharp pain or a dull pain.


Most cases of elbow pain come from inflamed or strained soft tissues like your


. You can usually treat elbow pain at home with some self-care, including painkillers and a few days’ rest. But sometimes, a medical condition like


causes elbow pain.


If you have elbow pain, it’s probably not a sign of anything serious. But if it doesn’t go away on its own within a couple of weeks, you should reach out to a healthcare provider.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services.



Possible Causes

What causes elbow pain?



and strain in soft tissues like your


and tendons are the most common causes of elbow pain. Certain medical conditions, injuries and scar tissue can also cause pain and stiffness in your elbow joint and the muscles and soft tissues surrounding it. Elbow pain causes may include the following.





(tendonitis) is when you have an injury or inflammation in your tendons — the soft, fibrous tissues that connect your muscles to your bones. Tendinitis often occurs due to overuse of your tendons. Common types of tendinitis include

tennis elbow


golfer’s elbow



Other common causes of elbow tendinitis:

  • Gardening.
  • Throwing a baseball.
  • Using a screwdriver.
  • Overusing your arm or wrist.


Arthritis occurs when you have stiffness, pain and swelling in your joints. Types of arthritis that may affect your elbow joint include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

    : Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that happens when your immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy lining of your joints. The condition causes joint pain and swelling, along with inflammation, stiffness, deformity and loss of function.
  • Osteoarthritis

    : Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition that occurs when your cartilage starts to break down with use and age. A loss of cartilage causes your bones to rub together, leading to pain, stiffness and loss of joint movement.
  • Juvenile arthritis

    : “Juvenile arthritis” is a term healthcare providers use to classify a group of diseases that affect children ages 16 and younger. Different types of juvenile arthritis can lead to pain and swelling in joints, including your elbows.
  • Psoriatic arthritis

    : Psoriatic arthritis is a type of autoimmune disease associated with joint arthritis and the skin disease psoriasis. It can lead to pain, inflammation, stiffness and swelling in and around your joints.
  • Gout

    : Gout is a form of arthritis that develops when uric crystals build up in your joints. This can lead to pain and swelling, along with red and shiny skin around your elbows.




occurs when your bursae become inflamed. Your bursae are small, fluid-filled sacs (cushions) underneath your skin at the tips of your elbows. Bursitis can lead to pain, swelling and stiffness.


Nursemaid elbow


Nursemaid elbow

is a condition that can occur in babies and young children. It occurs when you pull on the arm of a child, partially dislocating a tiny bone in their elbow joint.





is another chronic autoimmune condition that causes your immune system to mistakenly attack healthy tissues. Lupus most commonly affects your hands and feet, but it can also affect your elbows.



Other common causes of elbow pain include injuries like:

  • Fractures

  • Sprains.
  • Strains.
  • Dislocations

  • Tendon tears.

Care and Treatment

How is elbow pain diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will perform a

physical exam

and ask you about your symptoms and medical history. Questions they may ask include:


  • Do you have pain in one or both elbows?
  • Did you suffer any injury or trauma to your elbows?
  • Are you experiencing inner elbow pain or outer elbow pain?
  • Did the pain start suddenly, or has it been coming on slowly?
  • Does the pain come and go?
  • What makes the pain feel better?
  • What makes the pain feel worse?

Depending on your condition, your provider may request tests like:

  • Elbow X-ray

  • Ultrasound

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan

  • Nerve conduction study


Your provider may refer you to a specialist like a


or an


to make sure you get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.



How do you fix elbow pain?

You can usually alleviate the pain on your own at home with some simple self-care. If you were participating in an activity that caused the pain, stop the activity. Give yourself a few days’ rest and take over-the-counter pain relievers. This should be enough to clear up your elbow pain.

If the pain persists or you suspect you have a more serious condition, reach out to a healthcare provider. They may recommend additional elbow pain treatment, depending on the cause. Treatments for elbow pain may include:

  • Prescription pain medications: If your pain persists, your provider may prescribe you a stronger pain medication (


    ) than the over-the-counter (OTC) medications you’ve been using.
  • Physical therapy: Your provider may recommend you see a

    physical therapist

    to help you build up the strength in your elbow. A physical therapist can provide elbow pain exercises that will help you decrease inflammation, regain flexibility and increase your range of motion.
  • Steroid injections: If you’re experiencing severe pain, your provider may suggest a


    shot (injection). Steroid injections can help provide short-term pain relief, but the pain may start to return after about six weeks.
  • Platelet-rich plasma: If you have tennis or golfer’s elbow, your provider may recommend a technique called

    platelet-rich plasma

    injections. With this treatment, your provider injects you with your own platelets to help relieve pain and increase function.
  • Surgery: Rarely, you’ll need surgery to reduce your elbow pain. The type of surgery you have will depend on your condition. Surgeries range from soft tissue procedures to bony procedures.

Can elbow pain be prevented?

You can’t prevent all elbow pain. Sometimes, it just occurs due to the natural wear and tear of being active and getting older. But if you participate in an activity that causes elbow pain, you may be able to prevent it by:

  • Warming up properly.
  • Using the correct technique.
  • Cooling down.
  • Giving your body time to rest and recover.
Care at Cleveland Clinic

Wrist and Elbow Pain Treatment

Find a Doctor and Specialists

Make an Appointment


When to Call the Doctor

When should elbow pain be treated by a healthcare provider?

Elbow pain will usually improve on its own or with some basic at-home treatment. But you should see your healthcare provider if:

  • You have severe pain when you move your elbow or you can’t use it.
  • You can’t straighten or bend your elbow.
  • You experienced an obvious injury that may have resulted in a tear or a break.
  • Your pain doesn’t get better within two weeks of resting your elbow and taking pain medication.
  • You’re experiencing numbness, tingling or weakness in your hand or arm.
  • You have a fever or notice swelling, bruising or redness near your elbow.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

One minute, you’re feeling like Serena Williams, swinging the racket like a pro. The next, you notice a new pain when you use your typical backhand. What’s going on? It’s probably inflammation in your elbow. Take a break, rest it, ice it and take over-the-counter pain relievers. If you’re still not feeling better after a few weeks, check in with your healthcare provider to make sure you don’t have anything more serious going on.

a message