Repetitive actions like throwing a ball, lifting weights, and typing can all cause inner elbow pain. Such pain is particularly common among athletes and is often caused by medial epicondylitis.

Inner elbow pain usually extends from the muscles on the inside of the upper arm, over the elbow joint, and down into the hand. It may be painful while bending the elbow or while relaxed.

People who do sports activities or work involving repetitive movements, like lifting weights or using a hammer, have an increased risk of developing inner elbow pain.

Individuals can prevent and treat inner elbow pain with rest, medication, ice, and strengthening exercises. Working with a physical therapist can be helpful. In rare cases, a person may need surgery.

Read more to learn about what causes inner elbow pain, and how to prevent and treat it.

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Inner elbow pain is caused by a number of things. It often results from inflamed soft tissues, including ligaments and tendons.

One of the most common causes of inner elbow pain is medial epicondylitis, also known as “golfer’s elbow.” This is a form of tendonitis affecting both the forearm muscles and the inner elbow tendons. People with this condition have pain that runs from the elbow to the wrist on the inside of the arm.

Golfer’s elbow is an overuse injury. Overuse injuries happen when a person does too much of something their body is not ready for. In people with golfer’s elbow, the tendons and ligaments become strained when too much force is used to bend the wrist toward the palm.

The following types of movements can cause inner elbow pain:

  • serving a ball in tennis
  • throwing a javelin
  • carrying a heavy suitcase
  • chopping wood with an ax
  • using a chainsaw
  • lifting heavy objects

If someone performs these repetitive motions, they may experience swelling and pain in the inner elbow. Having weak shoulder and wrist muscles can contribute to developing the condition.

Other symptoms may accompany golfer’s elbow. These symptoms can be felt when doing an activity or while at rest.

An individual may find that bending the wrist toward the palm can trigger pain in the inner elbow. Making a fist can also be painful.

Symptoms related to medial epicondylitis include:

  • pain that spreads from the elbow toward the wrist
  • tenderness in the inner elbow
  • weakness or tightness in the inner elbow
  • trouble moving the elbow or hand
  • difficulty grasping items

Pain on the outside of the arm is a common symptom of lateral epicondylitis, or “tennis elbow.” This is also an overuse injury affecting the soft tissue of the arm.

Learn more about tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis).

The treatment for inner elbow pain depends on the cause of the injury.

In people with golfer’s elbow, the arm’s tendons and ligaments become strained from overuse, causing discomfort. Resting the injured arm usually is the first part of recovery. Once the pain is manageable, a person can practice therapeutic exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding the tendons. This prevents re-injury.

Treatment options differ depending on the individual and injury. Some of the ways to treat inner elbow pain include:

Rest

Usually, if someone has inner elbow pain, the first step is to stop the activity that caused the pain. A person can apply an ice pack or take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication to treat symptoms.

Stretch and strengthen

People may find it helpful to perform strengthening exercises. These target the muscles surrounding the injured tendons, which helps the healing process. Improving the strength and endurance of these muscles gives the arm resistance to future stresses.

Some exercises include:

  • Wrist flexion stretch: Straighten the injured arm, and bend the hand up as if signaling someone to “stop.” Use the other arm to gently pull the hand back, until a stretch in the forearm is felt. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat 4 times.
  • Wrist extension strengthening: Place the forearm on a table, with the palm off the table and facing up, holding a light hand weight of 1 to 3 pounds. Slowly let your hand drop to the floor and then using your wrist curl the weight back up to the starting position. Work up to 30 repetitions.
  • Stress ball squeeze: Grasp a rubber stress ball in the hand of the injured arm. Squeeze, engaging all fingers and the palm. Repeat 10 times.

Brace

If the pain occurs when bending the wrist, the individual may want to wear a brace. A brace for golfer’s elbow wraps around the upper part of the forearm. They can be purchased online and in many drugstores.

Steroid injection

If the pain and swelling do not resolve with the above treatments, a doctor may prescribe corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation.

Surgery

In rare cases, an individual may need surgery. This is called a medial epicondyle release. It relieves tension from the flexor tendon.

Most people do not need surgery to treat medial epicondylitis. A doctor may reccomend it if other treatment options do not work.

Other conditions

If conditions other than golfer’s elbow, such as arthritis, are causing someone’s inner elbow pain, the treatments will differ. A doctor will prescribe suitable medications and physical therapies.

Learn more about arthritis treatments.

Less than 1% of people experience golfer’s elbow. Those who do are usually aged 40–60. It is equally common in men and women.

People who regularly play sports like golf, tennis, and baseball are at an increased risk due to the sports’ repetitive motions. Using an improper technique or failing to properly warm up can increase the risk of inner elbow injury and pain.

People who work in a profession where they consistently use a hammer, chainsaw, or similar tool also have an increased risk. Typing is another repetitive action that can lead to the condition.

If someone is already at increased risk of inner elbow pain because of their work or hobbies, having weak forearm muscles intensifies their risk.

One of the best ways to prevent inner elbow injury is to strengthen the wrist, forearm, and shoulder muscles.

The following exercises can help:

  • squeezing a tennis ball
  • performing wrist curls
  • performing reverse wrist curls

Before playing a sport or working with tools, a person should do a thorough warm-up. Stretching and warming up the muscles before strenuous activity can help prevent injury. If someone experiences pain while performing an activity, they should stop immediately.

People should contact a doctor if their inner elbow pain does not resolve with home treatments like applying ice packs, taking anti-inflammatory medication, and performing strengthening and stretching exercises.

A doctor may prescribe physical therapy. A professional will assess the individual and assign suitable therapeutic exercises.

If these treatments do not relieve pain, a doctor may offer a corticosteroid injection. In some cases, they may recommend surgery.

Inner elbow pain is often a result of medial epicondylitis, or golfer’s elbow. In this form of tendonitis (acute) or tendinopathy (chronic), the inner elbow tendons become irritated and painful. A person can also experience wrist pain and/or forearm weakness.

Risk factors for inner elbow pain include playing certain sports, or working with certain tools, that involve repetitive hand motions. Weak wrist and forearm muscles, as well as poor form, increase a person’s risk of developing inner elbow pain.

Ice, anti-inflammatory medicine, and strengthening exercises are typical forms of treatment. In some cases, a doctor may prescribe more aggressive treatment.

Most cases of inner elbow pain resolve with rest and home treatment methods.