Elbow Pain

Elbow pain

Tennis elbow

What is it?

Tennis elbow (Lateral Epicondylopathy) is a condition that causes pain and tenderness around the outer elbow joint. It can affect people who play racquet sports, but more commonly is linked to occupations and tasks which involve sustained gripping and repetitive arm movements.

Usually, tennis elbow is caused by overusing the tendon that attaches your wrist muscles to your outer elbow joint. The tendon can often become weaker and its function can become impaired.

Tennis elbow is often due to a sudden increase in load such as lifting or typing. However, there are also other factors which are known to increase the likelihood of it occurring, including;

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Poor diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Diabetes (Types 1&2)


Pain on tasks such as gripping, opening jars and picking up objects

Weakness of grip / feeling as though you may drop objects

Pain / stiffness when bending and straightening the elbow and/or wrist

Pain on knocking or pressing on the outside of the elbow

Dealing with tennis elbow

Although it is a condition which will often improve over time without specific input, there are a few effective things you can do to help your recovery;

  • Education - Understand what the condition is and how to manage it (you are doing this now)
  • Manage load – although stopping activities completely is rarely recommended, it is very important to find out what level of activity your elbow can cope with comfortably, and gradually increase this over time
  • Exercise – there is good evidence to show that tendons respond well to exercise over time, and this is where you can be guided by the expertise of a physiotherapist

Pain killers may be useful to manage symptoms in some cases, although if in any doubt you should consult your pharmacist or GP.  Steroid injections are now rarely recommended for tendon problems.

Golfer’s elbow

What is it?

Golfer’s elbow (Medial Epicondylitis) is a condition that causes pain and tenderness around the inner side of the elbow joint.

The condition can affect anyone, although more often affects those who play golf, but also sports which involve throwing, such as cricket and baseball, as well as climbers or manual workers.

Golfer’s elbow is usually caused by overloading the tendon that attaches the muscles in your forearm to the inner side of your elbow joint. These muscles are the ones that make your fingers curl up in order to grip something.

As with tennis elbow, the fibres which form the tendon can become damaged and weaker. The pain is usually triggered by actions that require gripping such as lifting with the palm facing upwards, squeezing or pulling.

Dealing with golfer's elbow

In order to deal with this condition, the same principles can be applied as with Tennis Elbow (see relevant section); education, careful management of the volume and intensity of the activities you are asking the elbow to undertake, exercise, and pain relief where needed – all of which you can be guided on by a physiotherapist if required.

Additional Resources

Self refer into our service

It is important that you apply the advice and guidance provided above for around 8 weeks by which time we would expect you to notice improvement and in some cases complete recovery. If not, we have a team of trained physios who can help.

Self-refer into our service today

Think you need more urgent or emergency treatment? Follow the below guidance to see if you need to see someone quicker. 

Physiotherapy Triage

Physiotherapy Triage Red flag re-direction of patients to A&E/GP consultation

IMPORTANT 'Cauda Equina Syndrome’ although rare, can cause a permanent change to your bladder and/or bowel function, or foot strength.

IF you are suffering with low back pain and if you have any changes regarding the following since your pain started;

  • Bladder or bowel function (i.e., Increasing difficulty when you try to urinate, increasing difficulty when you try to stop or control your flow of urine, loss of sensation when you pass urine, leaking urine or recent need to use pads, inabilityof knowing when your bladder is either full or empty, inability to stop bowel movement or leaking, loss of sensation when you pass a bowel motion)
  • Loss of sensation/tingling around genitals, back passage, buttocks or inner thighs • Erectile or ejaculation problems or loss of sensation in genitals during sexual intercourse
  • Loss of sensation/ tingling or numbness in both legs
  • Weakness in foot (i.e. floppy foot or inability to lift front of foot when walking)

If YES call NHS 111 or go to A&E IMMEDIATELY

If you are suffering with low back pain and if you have any of the following;

  • History of cancer
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Feeling generally unwell/fever/lack of appetite

Please contact with your GP as soon as possible to discuss if other investigations are required rather than self-referring to physiotherapy.

You can also visit your GP for more information and advice on;

  • Women's and men's health including pelvic floor and incontinence
  • If you have had a series of falls and want to learn more to help avoid them
  • If you have reduced mobility and require a stick or frame
  • If you require neurological support for example if you have had a stroke or Parkinson's
  • If you are housebound
  • If you are under 16 years old