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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, contact your GP.

How you can ease elbow and arm pain

Try these things for a couple of days:

  • put a pack of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel on your arm for 5 minutes, 3 times a day
  • take painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • raise the arm if it's swollen

Non-urgent advice: Contact your GP 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
  • is extremely painful and difficult to move
  • tingles or feels numb
  • has been injured and you heard a snapping noise or your arm has changed shape

These can be signs of a heart problem (angina), an infection or a broken arm.

Emergency action required: Call 999 or 112 or go to your nearest emergency department if

  • the pain has come on suddenly
  • your chest feels like it's being squeezed

These could be signs of a heart attack or stroke.

Causes of elbow and arm pain

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

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

Main Symptoms Possible cause
Main Symptoms Pain, stiffness, difficulty moving, swelling Possible cause tendonitis (for example, tennis elbow)
Main Symptoms Pain, tenderness, bruising, swelling Possible cause sprains and strains
Main Symptoms Pain, stiffness coming down from the shoulder Possible cause frozen shoulder
Main Symptoms Pain and stiffness in the joints Possible cause arthritis
Main Symptoms Temperature of 38C or above, feeling shivery, skin broken around the shoulder Possible cause inflamed shoulder (bursitis)

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

Page last reviewed: 15 April 2021
Next review due: 15 April 2024

This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.