A lady looking and touching her elbow which appears to be painful.

Possible causes of elbow pain

07 Feb 2023

Elbow pain can be one of the most irritating types of joint pain, especially because we use our arms and hands for pretty much everything we do!

So, if you are suffering from a sore elbow, read on to find out what exactly might be causing it.

What could be causing elbow pain?

There are lots of reasons why your elbow might be hurting. You may have injured or strained it during exercise or heavy lifting.

Here are some of the causes of elbow pain:


Tendonitis is where a tendon swells after an injury, causing elbow joint pain and stiffness and even affecting movement.

You may also experience a grating or crackling feeling when you move it alongside swelling, with heat or redness1 .

Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow

These two are so called as each can be caused by their respective sports and the different movements which are used for each.

They are overuse injuries which are caused by repetitive movements.

Although the two conditions are quite similar, the main difference is that it affects tendons on different sides of the arm.

Tennis elbow affects the lateral epicondyle tendon whereas golfer’s elbow affects the medial epicondyle tendon.

Because of this, tennis elbow causes pain on the outside of the elbow and the forearm whereas golfer’s elbow is felt on the inner arm and elbow2 .

Strains or sprains

Strains and sprains can happen when too much pressure is put on to your elbow and commonly happen during sports or when lifting heavy objects.

A strain is when muscles are stretched or torn.

Whereas a sprain is when the same thing happens but to ligaments rather than muscles3 .


The bones, tendons and muscles near your joints are cushioned with small, fluid-filled sacks called bursae.

When these become inflamed, they cause bursitis. This is often brought on by frequent, repetitive movements such as leaning on your elbows for a long time or lifting something over your head repeatedly.

Signs of bursitis include the joint feeling achy and stiff, more pain with movement or pressure and swelling and redness4 .

Last Updated: 21st October 2020