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Tennis elbow

Tennis elbow is a condition that causes pain around the outside of the elbow. It usually goes away with rest but can sometimes last over a year. There are treatments that can help if needed.

Check if you have tennis elbow

The main symptom of tennis elbow is pain on the outside of your elbow.

The pain may range from mild discomfort when you move your arm to constant pain that can affect your sleep.

It may be worse when:

  • lifting or bending your arm
  • gripping objects
  • moving your wrist

Other symptoms of tennis elbow include:

  • tenderness or swelling in your elbow
  • pain in your forearm
  • difficulty fully straightening your arm

Things you can do to help ease tennis elbow

There are a number of things you can do to help ease the symptoms of tennis elbow.


  • avoid or reduce activities that make your symptoms worse

  • use paracetamol or rub an anti-inflammatory gel onto the affected area to help ease the pain

  • try using a hot or cold pack (or a bag of frozen peas) wrapped in a towel on the affected area for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours

  • try doing simple exercises, such as bending and straightening your arm

  • try wearing a forearm strap or a wrist or elbow brace – you can buy these from pharmacies


Do not smoke or go near naked flames if you're using ibuprofen gel because it's flammable and there's a risk of severe burns.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • you still have elbow pain after resting your elbow and trying self-care treatments for at least 2 weeks

Treatments for tennis elbow

Tennis elbow usually gets better after resting your arm for a few weeks, but it can sometimes last longer.

A GP may give you anti-inflammatory tablets.

They may also refer you for physiotherapy if your symptoms have not improved after trying treatments at home for 6 weeks.

Physiotherapy treatments may include:

  • massage
  • stretching and strengthening exercises for your wrist and forearm
  • ultrasound therapy – where high-frequency sound waves are used to increase blood flow, which can reduce pain and speed up healing

Surgery may be an option if you still have tennis elbow after 6 to 12 months.


Self-refer for treatment

If you have tennis elbow, 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 tennis elbow near you

Causes of tennis elbow

Tennis elbow is where the tendons in your elbow become inflamed. Tendons are strong cords that connect muscle to bone.

You can get tennis elbow if you do activities that involve gripping something and repeatedly twisting your wrist and forearm.

Activities that can cause tennis elbow include:

  • computer work, such as typing or using a mouse
  • manual tasks, such as sewing or using a screwdriver
  • leisure activities, such as tennis or playing a musical instrument

Anyone can get tennis elbow but it's more common in people between 35 and 54 years of age.

Page last reviewed: 31 May 2024
Next review due: 31 May 2027