Medial Elbow Pain (Inside Elbow)

Medial elbow pain

Pain on the inside of the elbow either comes on gradually through overuse or can be sudden onset, acute injury. Golfer’s elbow or throwers elbow is probably the most common name given to pain on the inside of the elbow.

Other causes include sprains (ligament tears), nerve compression, avulsion fractures apophysitis and pain referred from the upper back or shoulder.

On this page:

  • Golfers elbow
  • Medial ligament sprain
  • Biceps Tendonitis
  • Ulna nerve contusion
  • Avulsion fracture

Golfer’s Elbow

Golfer’s elbow, or medial epicondylitis, is an overuse injury similar to tennis elbow (on the outside of the arm) but causing pain on the inside of the elbow instead. This elbow injury usually comes on gradually over a period of time, rather than being an acute pain. It is sometimes known as thrower’s elbow or little league elbow. Read more on:

Medial Collateral Ligament Sprain

The medial collateral ligament (MCL) of the elbow is situated on the inside of the elbow and helps to provide stability to the joint. A tear of this ligament can occur either as a sudden onset acute injury or as a chronic, gradual onset injury through overuse. Symptoms include pain and tenderness on the inside of the elbow. Bruising and swelling may be present for more severe injuries.

Biceps Tendonitis

Biceps tendonitis results in pain and inflammation of the biceps tendon as it inserts into the inside of the elbow. Inner elbow pain caused by the inflamed tendon may be exacerbated by certain activities like writing. Read more on what you can do to treat this elbow injury, from rest and ice to electrotherapy and rehabilitation exercises.

Biceps tendonitis symptoms

Symptoms include thickening and redness over the biceps tendon. Pain or discomfort may be felt when bending the arm against resistance. The patient may also experience pain or discomfort on the front and inside of the elbow when writing. Tenderness to touch the tendon which can be felt in the crease of the elbow.

Biceps tendonitis treatment

Rest until pain and discomfort have gone. Biceps tendonitis is an overuse injury so continuing to use it will either make worse or prevent healing.

Apply ice or cold therapy which will reduce pain and inflammation. Ice should not be applied directly to the skin as it may burn but use a wet tea towel of commercial cold therapy wrap. Apply every hour for 10 minutes at a time in which the injury is acutely painful. Later in the rehabilitation stage, particularly if the injury becomes chronic heat may be more beneficial or alternating hot and cold.

Use an elbow support or heat retainer. A neoprene elbow support will provide compression to the joint taking some of the strain off the tendon. Also neoprene material retains the body heat increasing blood flow and aiding the healing process.

Use electrotherapies such as ultrasound or laser treatment. This will help with pain, reduce inflammation and help mobilize the tissues.

Prescribe a full rehabilitation program including stretching exercises and later once the inflammation has gone a series of progressive strengthening exercises if required.

Sports massage may help if the biceps muscle is tight. Cross friction massage may be applied to the tendon itself if more conservative treatment is not effective or the biceps tendonitis has become chronic.

Ulna Nerve Contusion

The ulnar nerve runs down the inside of the elbow. If you knock the inside of the elbow, you can hit the ulnar nerve (or funny bone) which causes a numbness or tingling down the forearm into the fourth and fifth fingers. When this nerve becomes trapped or damaged through repetitive strain or a direct impact, it creates this sensation and can cause elbow pain.

Elbow Avulsion Fracture

An avulsion fracture occurs when the tendon which joins muscle to bone is torn at the point or insertion into the bone, pulling a part of the bone is torn away with it. It is more common in children with symptoms and may feel similar to a sprain. Symptoms include immediate pain at the time of injury on the inside of the elbow, swelling and reduced ability to move the arm. An X-ray or MRI scan may be needed to confirm the diagnosis.

Ulnar Neuritis

Inflammation of the ulnar nerve in the elbow can occur for a number of reasons. Symptoms of pain on the inside of the elbow, more towards the back of the elbow behind the medial epicondyle (a bony bit on the inside of the elbow). In particular pins and needles, tingling or numbness will be felt, which may radiate into the forward and fingers.

Elbow Apophysitis

Apophysitis is a condition affecting children and adolescents and is a crumbling of the bone at the point the tendon attaches to. It is similar to apophysitis in the knee (Osgood Schlatter disease) or at the back of the heel (Severs’ disease). Apophysitis is usually something children will grow out of by the age of 16 or 17, although the condition does need to be managed properly with plenty of rest. Applying ice or cold therapy can help reduce pain and inflammation.

This article has been written with reference to the bibliography.