Medial epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow) is a type of tendinitis that affects the inside of the elbow. It develops where tendons in the forearm muscle connect to the bony part on the inside of the elbow.
Tendons attach muscles to bones. Due to injury or irritation, they can become swollen and painful. Although medial epicondylitis is referred to as golfer’s elbow, it doesn’t only affect golfers. It can occur from any activity involving use of the arms or wrists, including tennis and baseball.
What are symptoms of medial epicondylitis?
Medial epicondylitis can occur suddenly or develop slowly over a period of time. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. If you have golfer’s elbow, you may experience any of the following:
- pain on the inside of your elbow
- elbow stiffness
- hand and wrist weakness
- tingling sensation or numbness in the fingers, especially the ring and little fingers
- difficulty moving the elbow
It’s not unusual for elbow pain to radiate down the arm to the wrist. This makes it difficult to complete everyday activities, such as picking up items, opening a door, or giving a handshake. Typically, medial epicondylitis affects the dominant arm.
What are the causes of medial epicondylitis?
Medial epicondylitis is caused by repetitive motions, which is why this condition occurs among athletes. Golfers may develop this type of tendinitis from repeatedly swinging a golf club, whereas tennis players can develop it from repeatedly using their arms to swing a tennis racket. In both cases, overuse of the arms and wrist damages tendons and triggers pain, stiffness, and weakness.
Other risk factors for this type of tendinitis include playing baseball or softball, rowing, and weightlifting. Activities like playing an instrument and typing on the computer can also lead to medial epicondylitis.
How is medial epicondylitis treated?
Pain, stiffness, and weakness associated with medial epicondylitis can improve with home remedies.
- Rest your arm. Repeatedly using the affected arm can prolong healing and worsen your symptoms. Stop activities that involve repetitive movements until the pain disappears. Once the pain disappears, gradually ease back into activities to avoid re-injuring yourself.
- Apply ice or a cold compress to reduce swelling, pain, and inflammation. Wrap ice in a towel and apply the compress to your elbow for up to 20 minutes, 3 or 4 times a day.
- Take over-the-counter medication. Ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) can reduce swelling and inflammation. Take medication as directed. Depending on the severity of pain, your doctor may recommend a steroid injection.
- Do stretching exercises. Ask your physiotherapist about safe exercises for stretching and strengthening your tendons.
- Wear a brace. This can reduce tendinitis and muscle strain. Another option is wrapping an elastic bandage around your elbow.
Most cases will improve with anti-inflammatory medication. If your symptoms don’t improve, your physiotherapist may suggest surgery as a last resort.
This surgery is known as an open medial epicondylar release. During the procedure, a surgeon makes an incision in your forearm, cuts the tendon, removes the damaged tissues around the tendon, and then reattaches the tendon..