Elbow injuries

Elbow problems are normally the result of an injury from sport or due to repetitive movements of the elbow.

Problems on the outside of your elbow are often called tennis elbow, and on the inside, golfers elbow.

Most elbow problems settle within 6 weeks

Keeping active

Keeping active is an essential part of your treatment and recovery and is the single best thing you can do for your health.

Being physically active throughout your recovery can:

  • prevent a recurrence of the problem
  • maintain your current levels of fitness – even if you have to modify what you normally do, any activity is better than none
  • keep your other muscles and joints strong and flexible
  • prevent weight gain

More about keeping active

Resting or moving?

Within the first 24 to 48 hours after an elbow injury you should try to:

  • rest your elbow but avoid long spells of not moving at all
  • move your elbow gently for 10 to 20 seconds every hour when you are awake

After 48 hours:

  • Try to use your arm more - exercise really helps your elbow and can relieve pain
  • Do whatever you normally would and stay at, or return to work - this is important and is the best way to get better

Avoid sports or heavy lifting until you have less discomfort and good movement.

What about sports?

You should take your time before taking part in any sports after an elbow problem. If you take part in sports too soon you could be injured again.

Before doing sports, you should:

  • have no swelling
  • be able to move your elbow properly through full range of movement
  • have full or close to full strength

Remember to stretch and warm up fully before sports.

Can my elbow problem cause trouble anywhere else?

You may feel some pain or altered feeling in the muscles around your elbow and down to your wrist. These should improve as your elbow problem gets better.

Do I need to see my doctor?

You don't normally need to see your GP if you follow the right advice and take the right medication.

Your elbow problem should improve over the next 6 weeks.

If you experience any of the following, you should speak to your GP as soon as possible:

  • Unable to move your elbow
  • Heat and swelling around your elbow
  • Pain that worsens
  • Your elbow problem hasn't improved within 6 weeks

Find your nearest GP practice

Musculoskeletal (MSK) Helpline

If you have an elbow problem, the Musculoskeletal Advice and Triage Service (MATS) can provide information and advice to help with your problem, and refer you to a healthcare professional if you need it.
How to contact