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Elbow pain

Overview of elbow pain

Elbow pain is a common condition caused by damage to the complex parts of your elbow joint. Your elbow joint is made up of many structures and tissues that allow you to straighten, bend, and rotate your forearm and hand.

At Dignity Health, our team of orthopedic doctors specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of elbow injuries and conditions. If you are experiencing elbow pain, Find a Doctor near you.


Because your elbow joint is very complex, symptoms of elbow pain can vary widely. Your doctor will review your medical history and examine your elbow in order to diagnose the cause of your discomfort. Be sure to tell your doctor about any activities that make your elbow pain worse, as well as other symptoms you have.

Symptoms that may occur along with elbow pain include:

  • Deformity
  • Limited range of motion
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Warmth and redness

If you’ve experienced severe trauma to your elbow, seek immediate emergency care. If mild to moderate elbow pain persists for more than seven to 14 days, make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist at Dignity Health.


Elbow pain is caused when you damage the bones, tendons, cartilage, ligaments, or bursae (cushioning structures) in your elbow joint.

The most common cause of elbow pain is overuse injuries, including tendonitis, bursitis, sprains, and strains. Most of these injuries tend to be chronic and cause persistent pain.

Other causes of elbow pain include acute injuries and trauma (such as a sports injury or falling off a bike), infection, and arthritis. At Dignity Health, an orthopedic doctor may diagnose your elbow pain during an office visit. In some cases, you may need to undergo tests, such as an x-ray or MRI, to help your doctor diagnose the problem.

Risk factors

Common risk factors for elbow pain include any activity or occupation featuring frequent bending or strain on the elbow joint. Engaging in some high-contact activities like football, skiing, and climbing can also increase the risk of traumatic injuries like broken bones or torn tendons.

Some of the most common risk factors for elbow pain include:

  • Playing sports such as golf, baseball, football, and other contact sports, tennis and other racquet sports (tennis elbow), weightlifting, climbing, and body weight exercises like pushups and pullups
  • Working occupations and engaging in activities that require repetitive, strenuous action of the elbow
  • Trauma, such as falls or motor vehicle injuries


Elbow pain is typically the result of accidental injury or overuse. However, you can reduce your risk by:

  • Stopping an activity and adjusting when/if you feel pain
  • Using proper form when weightlifting and playing sports
  • Using safety gear and equipment properly
  • Allowing time to rest and recover after a traumatic injury

You can also speak with your doctor at Dignity Health for more tips on minimizing your chances of injury.

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.