Back to body parts


Find Imaging Centers
Medically reviewed for accuracy
3 minutes reading time


Elbow pain can be a significant hindrance to daily life, making simple tasks difficult and painful. Understanding the causes, treatments, and preventive measures is crucial for maintaining elbow wellness. This guide is designed to help individuals with elbow pain or those considering an MRI for their elbow issues.

A Guide to Elbow Pain: How Can an MRI Scan Help?

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans are non-invasive diagnostic tools that provide detailed images of the elbow's internal structures. They are particularly useful for diagnosing the root causes of elbow pain, identifying injuries, and planning treatment strategies. By offering a clear view of soft tissues, muscles, tendons, and ligaments, MRIs can help pinpoint issues that other imaging techniques, like X-rays, might miss.

What Is a Tennis Elbow and How Can an MRI Scan Identify It?

Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a condition characterized by pain on the outer part of the elbow. This pain results from overuse and repetitive motions that strain the tendons of the forearm, particularly the tendons that attach to the lateral epicondyle (the bony prominence on the outside of the elbow).

Symptoms include:

  • Pain and Tenderness: Pain is typically located on the outside of the elbow and may extend into the forearm and wrist. Tenderness is often felt when pressing on the lateral epicondyle.
  • Weakness in the Forearm: Difficulty in performing tasks that require gripping or holding objects, and decreased strength in the hand and wrist.
  • Pain with Specific Activities: Pain that worsens with activities such as lifting, gripping, or extending the wrist. Aggravation of pain during activities like shaking hands, turning a doorknob, or holding a coffee cup.

How an MRI Scan Can Identify Tennis Elbow

An MRI scan can help identify a tennis elbow by providing detailed images of the tendons and surrounding tissues in the elbow. It can reveal:

  • Tendon Damage: Detecting tears or degeneration in the tendons attached to the lateral epicondyle.
  • Inflammation: Highlighting areas of inflammation around the affected tendons.
  • Other Abnormalities: Identifying any additional issues that might contribute to the pain, such as joint abnormalities or nerve entrapment.

What Can an MRI Detect in an Elbow?

An MRI can detect various conditions and injuries within the elbow, including:

  • Tendon Tears or Inflammation: Identifying tears or inflammation in tendons, such as those affected in conditions like tennis elbow or golfer's elbow.
  • Ligament Injuries: Detecting sprains or tears in the ligaments that support the elbow joint.
  • Bone Fractures: Visualising fractures that might not be visible on standard X-rays.
  • Nerve Compression: Highlighting areas where nerves might be compressed, leading to pain or numbness.
  • Degenerative Changes: Observing changes associated with conditions like osteoarthritis.

How Can an MRI Scan Be Used to Reduce Pain?

While an MRI itself does not reduce pain, it plays a critical role in the overall pain management strategy by:

  1. Accurate Diagnosis: Providing a precise diagnosis that helps healthcare providers develop an effective treatment plan.
  2. Targeted Treatment: Enabling targeted treatments such as physical therapy, medications, or surgery based on specific findings.
  3. Monitoring Progress: Allowing doctors to monitor the effectiveness of treatments and make necessary adjustments.

How to Prepare for Your MRI Scan

Preparing for an MRI scan involves a few simple steps to ensure the process goes smoothly:

  • Medical History: Inform your doctor about any medical conditions, allergies, or implants you have.
  • Clothing and Accessories: Wear loose, comfortable clothing and remove all metal objects, such as jewelry, glasses, and hairpins.
  • Instructions: Follow any specific instructions given by your healthcare provider, such as fasting or drinking fluids.
  • Relaxation: Try to relax and stay still during the scan to ensure clear images are captured.

Schedule your MRI scan

If you’re experiencing persistent elbow pain, don’t wait. Schedule an MRI scan today to get a comprehensive understanding of your elbow health and take the first step towards relief and improved quality of life.

Contact us now to book your appointment and start your journey to pain-free living.

Lorea content writter
Reviewed by
Dr. Sachin Shah
Clinical Lead
Book a GP consultation

Frequently asked questions

Do I need a GP-referral?

No prior GP-referral is required. Booking with us includes a GP phone consultation and referral. Shortly after booking you will be contacted by a GP from our team who will discuss your scan and provide a referral.

How long is an MRI scan?

MRI scans generally take a bit longer than other types of scans. Individual scans take 10-30 minutes depending on the body part being scanned, overall it can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 90 minutes. You do have to lay very still for an MRI and if there is movement the scan may need to be repeated which can add some additional time.

What’s included in my booking?

With your GetScanned booking, you will receive:

  • A pre-scan phone consultation with a member of our medical team.
  • A referral for the scan.
  • Scheduling of a private MRI scan at your preferred scanning centre.
  • Access to your written report by a radiologist.
  • Access to your scan images (online and downloadable).

How much is a private MRI scan?

A private MRI scan cost varies depending on the part of the body being scanned and the location the scan is performed. Generally, a private MRI scan in the UK starts at around £350, and includes the scheduling, scan itself and results.

What’s the difference between an open and closed MRI?

Closed MRI machines are the traditional and first type of MRI. They are used more frequently because they provide higher quality images, however they aren’t ideal for certain types of scan or when the patient has limited mobility. Open or wide-bore MRI machines don’t involve lying in a tight cylinder, instead they have wider openings with more space and are therefore considered better if you suffer from claustrophobia. A standing MRI or upright MRI is a new type of open MRI that allows the patient to be in various different positions, including weight bearing positions. If you would prefer an open MRI please filter by MRI type to find an open MRI near you, but please be aware it is only available at certain locations.

Still have questions?

Can't see an answer to your question? Our friendly customer care team are happy to help.

Contact Us
Get Scanned Today
Search scan center