Objective: To describe the course of new episodes of elbow complaints in general practice, and to identify predictors of short term and long term outcome in terms of pain intensity and functional disability. Methods: 181 patients with elbow complaints filled in questionnaires at baseline and at 3, 6, and 12 months of follow up. Baseline scores of pain and disability, characteristics of the complaint, sociodemographic and psychosocial factors, physical activity, general health, and comorbidity were investigated as possible predictors of outcome. Outcome measures were analysed separately using multiple regression analyses. Results: 13% of the patients reported recovery at the 3 month follow up and 34% at 12 months. Irrespective of outcome and length of follow up, a longer duration of the complaint before consulting the general practitioner, having musculoskeletal comorbidity, and using "retreating" as coping style increased the likelihood of an unfavourable outcome. Less social support was associated with an unfavourable outcome at 3 months, and having a history of elbow complaints and using "worrying" as coping style were associated with an unfavourable outcome at 12 months. The explained variance of the models ranged from 46% to 49%. Conclusions: Recovery of patients with elbow complaints in general practice was poor. Besides characteristic of the complaint, passive coping and less social support were related to a worse prognosis. The results of this study may help general practitioners to provide patients with more accurate information about their prognosis.