Pain on the inside of the elbow either comes on gradually through overuse (chronic injuries) or is sudden onset (acute injuries). Golfer’s elbow is probably the most common cause of medial elbow pain.
Chronic medial elbow pain
Chronic elbow injuries develop gradually over time through overuse. The most common causes of chronic medial elbow pain are:
Golfer’s elbow, or medial epicondylitis, is an overuse injury similar to tennis elbow. Symptoms include:
- Pain on the inside of the elbow instead.
- Symptoms usually develop gradually over a period of time, rather than being a sudden acute pain.
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Biceps tendonitis is an overuse injury causing pain and inflammation on the inside/front of the elbow. Symptoms include:
- Thickening and redness over the front of the elbow
- Pain or discomfort bending the arm against resistance (e.g. bicep curl exercise)
- Writing may be uncomfortable
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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
- Pins and needles or numbness which radiates into the fingers
Apophysitis affects children and adolescents. It is a crumbling of the bone at the point the tendon attaches. 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 grow out of by the age of 16 or 17. However, you do need to manage it properly with plenty of rest. Apply ice or cold therapy to help reduce pain and inflammation.
Acute medial elbow pain
Acute elbow injuries include fractures, sprains, and strains.
Ulnar 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 numbness or tingling down the forearm into the fourth and fifth fingers.
When this nerve becomes trapped or damaged through repetitive strain or direct impact, it creates this sensation causing elbow pain.
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Medial Elbow Ligament Sprain
The medial collateral ligament (MCL) of the elbow is on the inside of the elbow and helps to provide stability to the joint.
A tear of this ligament occurs 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
- Swelling with more severe injuries
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Elbow Avulsion Fracture
An avulsion fracture occurs when the tendon tears at the point of insertion into the bone, pulling a part of the bone away with it. More common in children, symptoms feel similar to a sprain:
- Immediate pain on the inside of the elbow
- Limited movement
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Osteochondritis dissecans in the elbow joint
Osteochondritis dissecans is the fragmentation of the cartilage, that lines the ends of bones in the elbow joint. It is more common in adolescents because their bones are not yet fully hard.
- Locking and clicking of the elbow
- Swelling which comes and goes
- Restricted movement
- Intermittent pain
- Pain after activity
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