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.
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.
-> 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.