Lateral Elbow Pain (Outside)

Elbow pain

Lateral elbow pain refers to pain on the outside of the elbow. The most common cause of pain on the outside of the elbow is ‘Tennis elbow‘. However, a number of other injuries including nerve entrapments, bursitis and bone injuries also cause pain on the outside of the elbow.


Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow is a general term describing outer elbow pain. However, the most common cause is inflammation (or more likely degeneration) of the tendon which attaches to the outside of the elbow. Symptoms include:

  • Pain on the outside of the elbow about 1 to 2 cm down from the bony protrusion ( lateral epicondyle).
  • You may have weakness in the muscles around the forearm and wrist.
  • In particular, pain and weakness gripping things, or shaking hands with someone.

Radial Tunnel Syndrome

Radial tunnel elbow pain

Radial tunnel syndrome, radial nerve entrapment or posterior interosseous nerve entrapment occurs when the radial nerve in the arm becomes compressed or restricted in the tunnel it passes through. Symptoms are similar to that of Tennis elbow:

  • Pain on the outside of the elbow
  • Symptoms may also include pins and needles or tingling in the hand and outer forearm
  • Tenderness in the muscles of the upper forearm
  • Specifically, maximum tenderness about 4-6 cm down from the lateral epicondyle
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Radiohumeral Bursitis

Radiohumeral bursitis

Radiohumeral bursitis is inflammation of a bursa or small sack of fluid that sits between the tendon and the bone. It also has similar symptoms to tennis elbow:

  • Pain on the outside of the elbow
  • Tenderness pressing over the bursa
  • Limited range of movement in the elbow
  • Swelling and redness
  • Possible fever if an infection is present

Osteochondritis dissecans in the elbow joint

Osteochonritis dissecans elbow

Osteochondritis dissecans is the fragmentation of the cartilage that lines the ends of bones in the elbow joint. Sometimes the underlying bone also erodes. It is common in adolescents because the ends of their bones are not fully hard. It may be caused or exacerbated by throwing sports.

Symptoms include:

  • Locking and clicking of the elbow
  • Swelling which comes and goes
  • Restricted movement
  • Intermittent pain
  • Pain after activity


Synovitis of the elbow joint (radiohumeral joint) is inflammation of the synovial membrane which surrounds the joint. Symptoms include elbow joint pain and redness over the area. However, synovitis itself usually follows other conditions. These include joint injury or even illness including cancer.

Because of this, synovitis can indicate a serious problem so getting medical advice is essential.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain and swelling
  • Joint stiffness
  • Increased skin temperature
  • Redness over the area.

When a patient presents with suspected synovitis, the doctor may refer them for scans such as an MRI. They may also take fluid from the knee to test.

Referred pain

Pain on the outside of the elbow may have been caused by or referred to from the upper back or neck.

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