Get rid of inner elbow pain aka medial epicondylitis aka golfer’s elbow

(Last Updated On: June 1, 2018)

Tennis is on outside of elbow

Medial epicondylitis medial elbow pain

Golfer’s is on the inside of the elbow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unlike most of the posts on this site, the following pertains more to athletes than your everyday person. Specifically those who throw a lot e.g. baseball players, dodgeball players (had to throw that in there) and those who get inner elbow pain when lifting.

That’s not to say the information isn’t applicable to everyday people. For example, I’ve seen medial epicondylitis in a person who took a lot of blood pressure readings for work, due to grabbing the blood pressure pump all day. However, I see tennis elbow much more often in everyday people and golfer’s elbow in the athletic oriented.

Typically the cause of medial (inner) elbow pain is grabbing more with the hand/wrist than extending the hand/wrist. The wrist flexors and finger flexors become much stronger than the wrist extensors and finger extensors. If you’re wondering, flexors are on the front of the forearm, palm up side, and extensors are on the back of the forearm. In other words, if you’re looking at your palm, you’re looking at the side of the flexors. If you’re looking at the back of your hand, you’re looking at the extensors.

Lengthen the flexors, strengthen the extensors, and the golfer’s elbow pain typically clears up pretty easily.

I’ve been making a point that the finger flexors are also overworked because I often see people stretching the wrist flexors and not the finger.

Notice how the fingers are bent indicating the finger flexors are not being stretched

Check out the below video. Watch the first few reps when I extend my wrists and you can see the right fingers barely move at all. Meanwhile the fingers on my left hand extend with the wrist. While having the wrist fully extended – which is symmetrical between wrists – I extend my fingers. Found on the third rep:

 

You can see while I have even flexibility between my wrists I do not have equal flexibility between my fingers. The left fingers extend back much further than the right.

If I’m not cognizant of making sure this imbalance doesn’t become too severe the inside of my right elbow will start to act up, giving myself golfer’s elbow.  Some wrist pain can also come about too.

It’s pretty easy to keep something like this in check:

1) Perform the above exercise and try to extend the wrist/fingers further back each rep. This will generate a nice stretch in the forearm as well as help to strengthen the extensors.  You can do this with the arm by your side, straight out in front of you, basically whenever. Just make sure the wrist and fingers are moving back and you’re not compensating by moving the elbow or shoulder.

Here’s an example of performing the exercise with the arm straight out in front of you. The opposite hand is on the elbow to help make sure the elbow and shoulder do not rotate. Also, in contrast to the stretching picture above, make sure the hand is pointed down:

 

 

Another variation is to use a wall. Keep the hand down, elbow nice and straight, and press the fingers into the wall. Below you can see how I have to press my fingers against the wall to make sure I’m stretching the fingers and not just the wrist. I prefer the above exercise but the wall will help reinforce straight fingers:

 

Also, performing some manual therapy on the medial epicondyle (inside of elbow) while performing the stretch will help even more and should give you some immediate relief:

 

3) To elicit more of a challenge throw a rubber band around the fingers as resistance.

Wrist finger strengthening

-> Issues with the shoulder can contribute to elbow pain but the above typically gets people at least 90% pain free.

Lastly, I’ve seen more than a few people mistake tennis elbow for golfer’s and vice versa. Treatment for golfer’s elbow can make tennis elbow worse. Make sure you know which type you have! Or find someone who can tell you for sure.

Summing up: Take a small break from grabbing and throwing things, perform a crapload of exercise for the wrist/finger extensors, enjoy a pain free elbow.

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  1. Hi, i had started suffering from this injury 2 month ago, and one month back i went to the doctor and diagnosed my case as golf elbow, i have very acute degree of numbness and tingling in my little finger and the ring one, i searched on the net, but alot of them say it a symptom of golf elbow, and alot of others say its a cubital tunnel syndrome, can you please help which injury is that ?, and does it makes difference with the stretching excercises mentioned?.

    • Anything tingling oriented I look from the neck down. Hard to know where things are originating without assessing someone.

      Regardless, the exercises here should be alright, and if anything, helpful.

  2. Hi….to whom it may concern! I haved right elbow pain for 2 months know and the pain never goe’s away, it hurts so bad that my arm feels like it is on fire sometimes….i’ve had tennis elbow in the past and had surgery as well on the same arm…i have took steroids went to therapy iced it and all it keeps doing is swelling….what should i do?

    • Hey Debbie,

      Tough to answer this without knowing more about you. You can check out the elbow section on the site: http://b-reddy.org/category/pain-2/elbow-pain/

      1) With anything burning oriented, I always look up to the shoulder and neck, as well as the elbow. Anything burning oriented you usually want to be on the lookout for something nerve oriented going on.

      2) Swelling at the elbow seems to be pretty rare. Something I’d be looking at here is if any hardware was left in the elbow after the surgery, causing some type of complication. Or if any other type of complication was going on. Even with tennis elbow, medial epicondylitis, the two most common types of elbow pain, it’s quite rare to have swelling to a degree that it’s regularly noticeable. In other words, my “this is weird” radar would be going off. To where you then start looking for extenuating circumstances.

  3. I’ve been diagnosed with golfer’s elbow in both elbows, though my right is much worse. I have had three weeks of ultrasound and laser treatment as well as rest from the gym. At present my elbows are stiff and sore when I wake up but gradually feel 90% better by bed.

    I am away on a holiday this week and plan to start at the gym next Sunday. My doctor said it might be sore at first but to try and work through it and start slowly.

    I feel I can probably do pushing exercises (like dips) with little trouble but I also do a lot of pullups. I’m a little worried about making my elbow(s) worse and plan to start at 6 sets of 1 rep then the next time 6 sets of 2 reps for pullups etc. I also plan on only a neutral grip for the time being.

    I normally use a thumbless grip on my pulls and am thinking about using thumbless on my dips too.

    I had the same problem last year and it went away about a week later. It seems more persistent this time. I have worked out my whole life but am now 48 so age may be taking its toll.

    I will also try your stretches though I can’t really feel as much of a stretch as I think I’m supposed to.

    Any thoughts or words of encouragement?

    • Hey Brendon,

      -Try sleeping with your arms straight / do whatever you can to not let them be bent throughout the night. That usually does the trick when it comes to elbow stiffness in the morning.

      -Open your fingers on pushing exercises, so you’re not gripping as much. e.g. barbell bench press -> have bar in palms, but fingers not gripping bar.

      -Consider how much you type as well as the position(s) you type in.

      -Be very careful how much volume you do grabbing wise in the gym. Whenever symptoms like this arise, I have my clients take out pretty much all grip work for a month, to try and get ahead of things. Once things gets more pronounced, it can really be a bitch to get this thing to calm down.

  4. Hey so I’ve had pain there for about a month now. Only recently have I had problems with it just to the touch (my grip isn’t getting weak at all, it just hurts when I touch my tendon). It really started after I was working out doing bicep curls. I’m wondering if I’m doing it wrong? I went golfing on sunday and that’s when it’s hurt the worst. It’s also hurting just a tad to type this. I wan’t to get back into doing exercises for my bicep, but should I see a Physical Therapist first? should I try doing forearm workouts for a week, then trying bicep curls/pull-ups again? (I just tried doing the wide grip pull-ups, and it doesn’t hurt as much, but I’m afraid to do close grip, since that seem to use that tendon the most.

    • Hey Kyle,

      I’d see the notes here about taking a break from grabbing / gripping activities. Note even typing is one of these activities, as you can see based on having some pain during it.

  5. Hi brian,

    I think I have a golfers elbow but I’m not sure. My pain is on my left elbow if you have your elbow curl palm facing you the pain is like 1/2 inch outside the crease your elbow forms when flexed. If I form a fist with my are straight and I rotate my fist from knuckles up to knuckles facing down it hurts also when I straighten my are it hurts is annoying cause I cant do pull-ups pushups are not so bad stull hurts. I am going to start today with your stretches hopefully they help. Thanks for the video

  6. Hey, Great post. i will start following it. i have this pain from very long time around 6 years now, the pain started as a neck pain which radiated to inner elbow and then radiated to wrist and fingers. i have got it treatment from multiple chiropractors and physiotherapists but still i have the same pain even today. they have taken multiple mri scans and said there is no serious problem, but this pain isn’t leaving me it is quite irritating to feel all day, could you give some advice how do i reduce this pain. its nagging me everyday. Thank you.