Pain on the inside of the elbow either comes on gradually through overuse (chronic injuries) or can be sudden onset (acute injuries). Golfer’s elbow, sometimes called throwers elbow, is probably the most common name given to pain on the inside of the elbow.
Chronic medial elbow pain
Chronic elbow injuries develop gradually over time and are caused by 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, where the biceps tendon inserts.
- Pain or discomfort may be felt when bending the arm against resistance (e.g. bicep curl exercise).
- You may also experience pain or discomfort on the front and inside of the elbow when writing.
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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 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.
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.
Acute medial elbow pain
Acute elbow injuries are caused by sudden trauma and 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 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.
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Medial Elbow 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.
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Elbow Avulsion Fracture
An avulsion fracture occurs when the tendon which joins muscle to bone is torn at the point of insertion into the bone, pulling a part of the bone 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.
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Osteochondritis dissecans in the elbow joint
Osteochondritis dissecans the fragmentation of the cartilage and sometimes the underlying bone that lines the ends of bones in the elbow joint.
- It is common in adolescents as the ends of the bones are not yet fully hardened.
- It may be caused or exacerbated by throwing sports.
- Symptoms include locking and clicking of the elbow, swelling which comes and goes, restricted movement, intermittent pain, and pain after activity.
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