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Elbow and arm pain

Elbow and arm pain is not usually a sign of anything serious. If it does not go away after a few weeks, see a GP.

How you can ease elbow and arm pain yourself

To ease elbow and arm pain, try these things for a couple of days:

  • put a heat pack or a pack of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel on your arm – do this for 10 to 15 minutes, every few hours
  • take painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • raise your arm if it's swollen

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • elbow or arm pain does not go away after a few weeks

Urgent advice: Get help from NHS 111 if your arm:

  • hurts when you exercise but the pain goes away when you rest
  • is swollen and you have a very high temperature or feel hot and shivery

Go to an urgent treatment centre or A&E if:

  • you have severe pain in your arm and it's difficult to move
  • you've injured your arm and you heard a snapping noise or your arm has changed shape
  • your arm tingles or feels numb

Immediate action required: Call 999 if:

  • arm pain has come on suddenly and it occurs with pressure, heaviness or squeezing across your chest

This could be a sign of a heart attack.

Causes of elbow and arm pain

Apart from an injury, these things can cause arm and elbow pain.

Do not self-diagnose. See a GP if you're worried.

Common causes of elbow and arm pain
Main symptoms Possible cause

Pain on the outside of the elbow, difficulty to fully extend the arm

Tennis elbow

Joint pain, stiffness, swelling, difficulty moving the affected area

Tendonitis or bursitis

Pain, tenderness, bruising, swelling

Sprains and strains

Pain, stiffness coming down from the shoulder

Frozen shoulder

Pain and stiffness in the joints


Swelling around a joint, a high temperature or feeling hot and shivery

Joint infection (septic arthritis)


Self-refer for treatment

If you have elbow or arm pain, you might be able to refer yourself directly to services for help with your condition without seeing a GP.

To find out if there are any services in your area:

  • ask the reception staff at your GP surgery
  • check your GP surgery's website
  • contact your integrated care board (ICB) – find your local ICB
  • search online for NHS treatment for elbow or arm pain near you

Page last reviewed: 26 January 2024
Next review due: 26 January 2027