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Golfer's Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis)

Golfer’s elbow or medial epicondylitis is characterized by pain in the inside of the elbow. The pain is caused by damage to the tendons that bend the wrist toward the palm. This action is often seen when performing a golf swing, hence its name.

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As the referral center for Greater Cincinnati and the region, the Sports Medicine & Concussion program provides top quality care for even the most complex musculoskeletal conditions. We customize treatment plans that use the most innovative, effective surgical and nonsurgical techniques to restore function, relieve pain for professional athletes, high school sports teams and anyone who leads an active lifestyle.

To schedule an appointment, please call the UC Health Sports Medicine & Concussion team at 513-475-8690.

ABOUT THIS CONDITION

Understanding Golfer's Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis)

What is medial epicondylitis?

Medial epicondylitis is also known as golfer elbow, baseball elbow, suitcase elbow, or forehand tennis elbow. It causes pain from the elbow to the wrist on the inside (medial side) of the elbow. The pain is caused by damage to the tendons that bend the wrist toward the palm. A tendon is a tough cord of tissue that connects muscles to bones.

What causes medial epicondylitis?

Medial epicondylitis is caused when excessive force is used to bend the wrist toward the palm. This can happen when swinging a golf club or pitching a baseball. Other possible causes of medial epicondylitis include:

  • Serving with great force in tennis or using a spin serve.

  • Weak shoulder and wrist muscles.

  • Using a tennis racket that is too tightly strung or too short.

  • Throwing a javelin.

  • Carrying a heavy suitcase.

  • Chopping wood with an ax.

  • Using a chainsaw.

  • Frequent use of other hand tools on a continuous basis.

What are the symptoms of medial epicondylitis?

The most common symptom of medial epicondylitis is pain along the palm side of the forearm, from the elbow to the wrist, on the same side as the little finger. The pain can be felt when bending the wrist toward the palm against resistance or when squeezing a rubber ball.

The symptoms of medial epicondylitis may look like other health problems or conditions. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is medial epicondylitis diagnosed?

The diagnosis of medial epicondylitis often can be made based on a physical exam. Your healthcare provider may rest your arm on a table, palm side up, and ask you to raise your hand by bending your wrist against resistance. If you have medial epicondylitis, pain often is felt in the inner aspect of the elbow.

How is medial epicondylitis treated?

Treatment for medial epicondylitis includes stopping the activity that produces the symptoms. It is important to stop doing the movement that caused the condition in the first place. Treatment may include:

  • Ice packs to reduce inflammation.

  • Strengthening exercises.

  • Anti-inflammatory medicine.

  • Bracing.

  • Physical therapy.

  • Corticosteroid injections.

  • Surgery (rare).

What can I do to prevent medial epicondylitis?

Being aware of your daily movements can help prevent this condition. Some suggestions include:

  • Using correct form when doing repetitive activities such as work or sports movements.

  • Keeping shoulders, forearms and wrist muscles strong.

  • Gently stretching forearm muscles before and after repetitive tasks.

  • Using correct body mechanics when lifting or moving objects.

Possible complications

If you don’t give your elbow time to heal, symptoms may return or get worse. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions on resting and treating your elbow.

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