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Elbow and arm pain

View original article on NHS Choices

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.

Try these things for a couple of days:

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

See a GP if:

  • the pain does not go away after a few weeks

Get advice from 111 now 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.

111 will tell you what to do. They can tell you the right place to get help if you need to see someone.

Go to or call 111.

Other ways to get help

Go to an urgent treatment centre

Urgent treatment centres are places you can go if you need to see someone now.

They're also called walk-in centres or minor injuries units.

You may be seen quicker than you would at A&E.

Find an urgent treatment centre

Call 999 if:

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

This could be a sign of a heart attack.

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

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

Main symptoms Possible cause
Pain, stiffness, difficulty moving, swelling Tendonitis (for example, tennis elbow)
Pain, tenderness, bruising, swelling Sprains and strains
Pain, stiffness coming down from the shoulder Frozen shoulder
Pain and stiffness in the joints Arthritis
Temperature of 38C or above, feeling shivery, skin broken around the shoulder Inflamed shoulder (bursitis)

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