Advice and information for patients
There are a variety of conditions that can affect the elbow. These may involve the joints or the surrounding soft tissues. Pain may be caused by a specific injury or may gradually build up over time.
Most elbow pain has a simple cause and will resolve. The most common soft tissue problems of the elbow are tennis elbow and golfer's elbow. Often they are the result of overuse or repetitive strain. These conditions generally improve in a relatively short time with simple advice and exercises to stretch and strengthen the tendon.
How can I help myself to get better?
Minor injuries, such as mild sprains and strains, can be treated at home and should start to improve after a few days. Using a protection, rest and ice regime initially can help.
There is self-management advice provided below to help minimise symptoms and facilitiate the healing process:
Adaptation of your movements
Changing or adapting any movements that might be making your symptoms worse is important. Try to reduce the amount of activity (rather than stopping it altogether) that may be exacerbating your symptoms for a short period, until the pain settles. You should then aim to slowly work back up to your previous activity level.
Sometimes your job may be contributing to your pain; if your workplace has an occupational health department they may be able to offer you advice on ways to help you.
Getting the right pain relief to allow you to return to your usual activities is the key to success in the early stages. Pain killers, such as ibuprofen, paracetamol and gels can help. Make sure you discuss this with your GP or Pharmacist.
Keeping your elbow and shoulder moving is important to prevent structures stiffening up and your arm muscles becoming weak.
Exercises can help to restore your movement and promote strength and help get your elbow back to normal.
Sedentary and inactive lifestyles increase the risk of developing pain and can also delay your recovery. Being active for 30 minutes in your day can make a big difference in your overall health and improve your pain.
When should I see my GP or physiotherapist?
Many episodes of elbow pain get better or improve on their own, however you should seek medical advice for the following:
After a sudden traumatic or high impact injury
If the pain is severe or the elbow is hot, red or very swollen
If you have tingling or numbness in the elbow
If you develop acute elbow pain at the same time as feeling unwell or having a fever you should see your GP immediately.
Specific elbow conditions
If you have been given a diagnosis, below is some advice to help you manage your specific condition.