Why is my Elbow Swollen and Painful?

Whether you’re playing tennis, clean the house or pushing yourself at the gym, a painful elbow can stop you in your tracks and leave you feeling frustrated. While it can be tempting to just wrap it up or take a pain-killer, understanding the cause of why the elbow is swollen and painful the key is to long term treatment. 

Why is my Elbow Swollen and Painful?

While there are a range of issues that can affect the elbow, the most common is tendonitis. This occurs when one or both of the main tendons in the elbow become inflamed, most often from repeated strain of the arm.

Tendonitis is known as tennis or golfer’s elbow (depending on which side of the elbow it is), but isn’t limited to sports. In fact only five percent of cases of tennis elbow are actually caused by tennis!

When the tendon becomes inflamed, it aggravates the muscles, nerves and other tissue surrounding the joint.

This then causes pain, swelling and redness, particularly when the elbow is moved. If you’ve got tendonitis, the good news is it’s normally something you can take care of yourself.

Treatment options 

RICE method

When you’re taking care of an injury, one of the most common principles used is RICE (rest, ice, compress, elevate).

Applying these treatments to your elbow is a great way to alleviate tendonitis, so we’ve outlined the best way to use each of them to full effect.


The tendon naturally recovers as it’s rested, allowing for the muscle fibres to heal properly and the inflammation to reduce. While it’s felt in the elbow, resting your whole arm is important here, as the hand and wrist are connected to these tendons.

Avoid gripping, turning/twisting objects or lifting with your hands to rest the tendon.

Bauerfeind elbow brace for swollen and painful elbow injuries


Icing the elbow when it’s swollen, particularly after exercise or injury is a great way to bring down the swelling and pain quickly.

Utilising a cold compress makes this even more effective, but can be difficult.

Thankfully, there’s a trick you can use with the EpiTrain elbow brace. Put the brace in the fridge 20 minutes before exercise or activity and the gel support will be nice and cool, acting as a cold compress to relieve the tendon.


Compression is arguably the most effective way to recover your muscles after strain and fatigue.

While putting on strapping or bandaging can help, making sure it’s not too tight or loose and is getting the blood moving in the right direction is important.

Using a medical grade support like the Sports Elbow Support or the EpiPoint is a great way to give active compression while you’re moving.

Bauerfeind elbow brace


The main benefit of elevating an injured limb is that it helps the blood to flow through and out of the affected area, reducing swelling.

While your elbows are normally elevated in one way or another, by moving the arm at the shoulder joint, your muscles can pump blood through the arm without straining the affected tendon.

When to seek help for a swollen and painful elbow

While taking care of the issue at home helps in a lot of cases, sometimes it’s important or even crucial to get medical help.

While swelling and pain are usually caused by tendonitis, in more serious cases it can be symptomatic of a fracture, nerve problems or issues in the joint itself. If you notice any of the following, seek medical help as soon as you can.

  • High levels of pain that stop you from being able to move the arm.
  • Numbness or loss of sensation in the fingers or hand.
  • Distinct swelling that distorts the normal shape of the elbow.
  • Lasting discolouration of the area where it’s painful.
  • Distinctly reduced range of motion in the elbow.

Read more: How do you treat a sprained elbow?

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Bauerfeind products are developed at our innovation and manufacturing facility in Zeulenroda, Germany. Based on years of scientific research, our award-winning braces and support garments are highly recommended by medical professionals and athletes worldwide.

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