Elbow pain can come in many forms, but by far the most common I see in my office is tendonitis of the forearm muscles where they attach at the elbow.
There are 2 main sites where this can develop that are called either 'tennis elbow' or 'golfers elbow', depending on the site.
Tennis elbow is whats called Lateral Epicondylitis and is felt as sharp pain on the outside of the elbow. Golfers elbow, by comparison is pain felt on the inside of the elbow and is called Medial Epicondylitis.
Both of these are painful and both can be downright debilitating if they get bad enough.
Basically, golfers and tennis elbow are the same problem that affects different groups of muscles/tendons. If you think about your forearm muscles, they are broken into two groups. Half of the forearm muscles pull your wrist inward and the other half extend the wrist the opposite direction.
The problem arises when these tendons get overworked and inflamed where they insert into the lower part of the upper arm bone(humerus).
What To Do...
Like most problems, the sooner you address them, the easier they are to deal with. It's the 'ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure' deal. If you can nip these in the bud, you can save yourself a lot of misery.
Like most conditions, these come in three flavors. Mild, Moderate and Severe.
Elbow tendonitis will typically start slowly and give you a 'twinge' here and there and slowly build to becoming more consistent with any grabbing or squeezing activity.
The best early intervention is to ice and try to reduce the activity that seems to aggravate or bring the pain on. Now, sometimes that is easier said than done because of occupation or hobbies, so you need to know how to work around it.
If there is an activity that always gives you pain, playing the piano for example, it would be best to wear a brace while doing that activity. Also, ice will typically help these a lot by reducing some of the inflammation and numbing the area after it has been aggravated.
What to do if its REAL BAD...
The people I see in my office that have tennis or golfers elbow have the moderate to severe variety. Often times the elbow joint itself is restricted or misaligned which leads to the imbalance that creates the tendonitis in the first place. I typically will adjust the elbow if there is joint dysfunction, Laser, and work on muscular imbalances.
Laser therapy is a great tool for any tendonitis and will typically get these to heal rather quickly, even if they've been bad for long periods of time.
Hope that helps,