Medial epicondylitis is pain over the bone on the inner side of the elbow. The piece of bone that can be felt on the inner side of the elbow is called the medial epicondyle. When the tendons attached to this bone are overstretched or torn, they can become painful. This is called tendinopathy.
Medial epicondylitis is commonly called golfer's elbow, but it is not restricted to people who play golf. It can occur in tennis players and other people who repeatedly grip objects tightly.
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Golfer's elbow is caused by overusing the flexor muscles of the forearms. Overusing these muscles can stretch or tear the tendons attached to the medial epicondyle.
Factors that may increase your chance of medial epicondylitis include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms, medical history, recent physical activity, and how the injury occurred. You may not remember the event that caused the injury because golfer's elbow pain develops over time. The doctor will examine your elbow for:
X-rays are not usually necessary. However, an x-ray may be needed if the doctor suspects other problems.
An MRI scan is occasionally used for diagnosis, but there is only limited evidence supporting this use.
Do not do activities that cause pain. Do not play sports, especially golf and tennis, until the pain is gone. You may need to alter how you do certain activities.
Regular ice application may help decrease some discomfort and swelling.
The following drugs can help to reduce inflammation and pain:
If you still have tenderness in the elbow while taking these drugs, do not return to physical activity. Check with your doctor.
Wear a counter-force brace on your forearm if recommended by your healthcare professional. This brace limits the force generated by your forearm muscles when you use them.
Apply heat to the elbow only when you are returning to physical activity. Then use it before stretching or getting ready to play sports.
When the acute pain is gone, start gentle stretching as recommended by a healthcare professional. Stay within pain limits. Hold each stretch for about 10 seconds and repeat 6 times.
Begin strengthening exercises for the flexor muscles of the forearm as recommended.
Begin arm motions of your sport or activity (such as golf swings, tennis strokes, painting) as recommended.
The doctor may inject cortisone into the elbow near the medial epicondyle to reduce pain and inflammation.
To help reduce your chance of medial epicondylitis:
Ortho Info— American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Sports Med—American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
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Last reviewed December 2014 by Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS Last Updated: 12/20/2014