Elbow pain


This article describes aching or other discomfort in the elbow that is not related to direct injury.

Alternative Names

Pain - elbow


Elbow pain can be caused by a variety of problems. A common cause in adults is tendinitis, an inflammation and injury to the tendons -- soft tissues that attach muscle to bone.

People who play racquet sports are most likely to injure the tendons on the outside of the elbow. This condition is commonly called tennis elbow. Golfers are more likely to injure the tendons on the inside of the elbow.

Other common causes of elbow tendinitis are gardening, playing baseball, using a screwdriver, or overusing your wrist and arm.

Young children commonly develop "nursemaid's elbow," usually when someone is pulling on their straightened arm. The bones are stretched apart momentarily and a ligament slips in between, where it becomes trapped when the bones try to snap back into place. Children will usually quietly refuse to use the arm, but often cry out with any attempt to bend or straighten the elbow. This condition is also called an elbow subluxation (a partial dislocation).

Other common causes of elbow pain are:

Home Care

Gently try to move the elbow and increase your range of motion. If this hurts you, or you cannot move the elbow, call your doctor or nurse.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your doctor or nurse if:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your doctor or nurse will examine you, and carefully check your elbow. You will be asked questions about your medical history and symptoms, such as:

Treatment depends on the cause, but may involve:


Ronthal M. Arm and neck pain. In: Bradley WG, Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, eds. Neurology in Clinical Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Butterworth-Heinemann; 2008:chap 32.

Regan WD, Grondin PP, Morrey BF. Elbow and forearm. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 19.

Review Date: 8/11/2012
Reviewed By: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc. C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.
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