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6 Reasons for Inner Elbow Pain

Inner elbow pain, also known as medial elbow pain, can be troubling for many individuals, especially those who engage in repetitive arm motions or sports activities. Understanding the common causes of this discomfort can help in seeking appropriate treatment and preventing further injury. Below are five reasons for inner elbow pain and ways to address them.


1. Golfer’s Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis)

Golfer’s elbow, or medial epicondylitis, is a condition characterized by inflammation of the tendons that attach to the medial epicondyle of the elbow. Despite its name, this condition is not exclusive to golfers. It can affect anyone who performs repetitive wrist and arm movements. If you suffer from golfer’s elbow, it is essential to rest the affected arm, ice the area, and perform stretching and strengthening exercises as recommended by a healthcare professional.

Symptoms of Golfer’s Elbow

Recognizing the symptoms of golfer’s elbow is crucial for early intervention and effective management of the condition. Some common symptoms include:

  • Pain and tenderness on the inner side of the elbow
  • Stiffness in the elbow, particularly in the morning
  • Weakness in the hand and wrist
  • Numbness or tingling that may radiate into the fingers
  • Difficulty in performing activities that involve gripping or lifting

Causes and Risk Factors

Golfer’s elbow is often caused by overuse of the muscles and tendons in the forearm that control wrist and finger movements. This can occur due to repetitive actions such as swinging a golf club, using a tennis racket or carrying heavy objects. Other risk factors include poor form or technique when performing tasks, a sudden increase in intensity or frequency of activity, and improper equipment.

2. Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Cubital tunnel syndrome is caused by compression or irritation of the ulnar nerve as it passes through the cubital tunnel, a narrow passageway on the inner side of the elbow. Often associated with prolonged elbow flexion and inner elbow pain, cubital tunnel syndrome can significantly affect daily activities if left untreated. Proper diagnosis and management are essential to alleviate symptoms and prevent permanent nerve damage.

Symptoms of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Identifying the symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome early on can help manage the condition effectively and prevent further complications. Some of the common symptoms include:

  • Numbness and tingling in the ring and little fingers
  • Pain in the elbow, especially on the inner side
  • Weakness in the hand and grip strength
  • Difficulty performing fine motor tasks
  • Increased discomfort when the elbow is bent for prolonged periods

Contributing Factors

Aside from repetitive elbow flexion, other factors that can contribute to the development of cubital tunnel syndrome include:

  • Direct trauma or pressure on the inner elbow
  • Elbow fractures or dislocations
  • Arthritis or bone spurs in the joint
  • Previous elbow surgery

3. Tendonitis

Tendonitis, also known as tendinitis, is the inflammation or irritation of a tendon, the thick, fibrous cord that attaches muscle to bone. Tendonitis may occur in any tendon, but it is common in the elbows, shoulders, wrists, knees, and heels. If left untreated, tendonitis may lead to more severe conditions, such as tendon rupture. Thus, timely intervention with rest, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy is crucial.

Symptoms of Tendonitis

The symptoms of tendonitis typically include pain and tenderness along the affected tendon, which usually exacerbates with physical activity or movement. Individuals may experience a sensation of warmth and swelling around the tendon, and in some cases, there might be a palpable lump along the tendon.

Stiffness, particularly in the morning or after periods of inactivity, is also common. Over time, if not properly managed, the pain can become more persistent and interfere with daily activities, causing significant discomfort and potentially leading to a decrease in the range of motion of the affected joint.

Causes and Risk Factors

Understanding the causes and risk factors associated with tendonitis can help you take preventive measures and manage the condition effectively. Below is a list of common causes and risk factors for tendonitis, particularly focusing on inner elbow pain:

  • Repetitive motions
  • Improper lifting technique
  • Age
  • Medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and diabetes
  • Acute injuries
  • Lack of conditioning
  • Occupational hazards

4. Elbow Sprain

An elbow sprain occurs when the ligaments that support the elbow joint are stretched or torn. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect bones at joints, providing stability and support. An elbow sprain can range from mild, with just some ligament stretching, to severe, where the ligament is partially or completely torn. This type of injury is often the result of a fall, direct blow to the elbow, or sudden twisting motion.

Symptoms of Elbow Sprain

Elbow sprains occur when the ligaments in the elbow are stretched or torn, usually due to a sudden, forceful movement or impact. Some common symptoms of an elbow sprain include:

  • Pain and tenderness on the inner side of the elbow
  • Swelling and bruising around the joint
  • Limited range of motion and stiffness
  • Weakness and instability in the joint

Causes and Risk Factors

Elbow sprains may occur for various reasons, including falls, direct impact or trauma to the elbow, and overuse. Athletes who engage in activities that require repetitive arm movements are at higher risk for elbow sprains. Additionally, inadequate warm-up or cool-down routines and poor technique when performing physical tasks may also contribute to developing an elbow sprain.

5. Bursitis

Bursitis is an inflammation of the bursae, which are small, fluid-filled sacs that act as cushions between bones and other moving parts such as muscles, tendons, or skin. When these sacs become irritated and inflamed, it can result in significant discomfort and swelling. Bursitis can affect various body parts, including the shoulders, hips, and knees, but it can also be a source of inner elbow pain when the bursa in the elbow is involved.

Symptoms of Bursitis

The symptoms of bursitis may vary depending on the location of the affected bursa, but some common signs of elbow bursitis include:

  • Pain and tenderness over the tip of the elbow
  • Swelling and redness in and around the joint
  • Limited range of motion
  • Stiffness, particularly in the morning or after periods of rest

Causes and Risk Factors

Bursitis can occur due to overuse or repetitive movements, direct trauma or impact to the elbow, or certain medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Individuals who perform activities that put pressure on the elbows, such as leaning on them for prolonged periods or frequent throwing motions, are at a higher risk of developing bursitis in the elbow. It is also important to note that as we age, our bursae become less elastic and more prone to inflammation, making older individuals more susceptible to developing bursitis.

6. Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) Injuries

The Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) is a critical stabilizer of the elbow joint, especially in athletes who perform repetitive throwing motions, such as baseball pitchers. An injury to the UCL can cause significant inner elbow pain, and it is crucial to address this condition promptly to avoid long-term damage.

Symptoms of UCL Injuries

UCL injuries typically present with a sudden sharp pain inside the elbow often felt during the action of throwing. Other symptoms include:

  • A feeling of instability in the elbow, as if the joint is “giving way” especially during overhead activities
  • Swelling and tenderness on the inner side of the elbow
  • Decreased throwing velocity for athletes and difficulty performing at usual levels

Causes and Risk Factors

The primary cause of UCL injuries is repetitive stress to the elbow joint from throwing activities. However, these injuries can also occur due to a single traumatic event, such as a fall or direct impact. Risk factors include:

  • High-intensity throwing activities in sports like baseball, javelin, or football
  • Inadequate rest between intense physical activities
  • Improper throwing mechanics or technique

Find Relief From Elbow Pain

Don’t let inner elbow pain hold you back any longer. At Performance Sports Medicine Institute, we are dedicated to helping patients manage and find relief from their elbow pain. Through a comprehensive evaluation, we can determine the underlying cause of your discomfort and develop a personalized treatment plan that may include physical therapy, medication, or other non-invasive techniques. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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