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Why does my elbow hurt?

Elbow problems are common. It can sometimes be concerning if it is very sore, but it is rarely because of anything serious. Discomfort usually comes from irritated tissues such as tendons or muscles. Sometimes the pain may travel into the rest of the arm making gripping and lifting difficult.


Will I get better?

Most elbow complaints will improve with time and often you may not need to do anything about it. If your elbow issue is not getting better, consider the following advice/ exercises.


What can I do to help myself?

The best advice is to continue to use your elbow as normally as you can. Whilst your elbow is sore, it may be sensible to make some adjustments to what you ask your elbow to do i.e. reduce (but not avoid) lifting, take more breaks, ask for help with tasks that are uncomfortable.


What else can I do?

Exercise, particularly strengthening exercise, is the best medicine for most aches and pains including elbows. 


But my elbow is sore, should I really be using it and doing exercise?

Yes. You are safe to exercise and use your elbow despite the fact that it might be a sore. Often, if you start avoiding things that you find difficult, it becomes more challenging to help the problem.


What about an x-ray or scan?

In most cases, having an x-ray is not useful in helping your elbow to get better. Of course, in certain situations they are important and necessary, but often the results will show you things that are meant to be there or normal for your age. That might mean that in a number of cases, what the x-ray shows is not really necessarily related to why your elbow is sore. This is likely to be why your GP or physio may have said that it is not be needed to help with diagnosis and treatment.


I still feel that I need some help.

If your elbow complaint is causing you issues that you feel you would like to discuss with someone, you can be referred to the physiotherapy service by your GP. Your local pharmacist will also be able to provide you with information regarding any appropriate use of over the counter medication.

Top exercise ideas

Here is a selection of exercises that are most useful for helping elbow complaints. Click on the arrows to show the start and finish of each excercise. 

Exercise 1

Standing facing a wall. Keeping your body straight slowly take your chest to the wall and back again. The position of your hands or a ball under your hand can add a different challenge.

Exercise 2

Lean forwards. Holding a chair or table to steady yourself, Keep your elbow up as you straighten it and then slowly lower.

Exercise 3

Standing or sitting. Bend your elbow and using your other hand try to increase the bend.