What Causes Medial Elbow Pain in Athletes?

Medial Elbow Pain

Medial Elbow Pain

Athletes who train for overhand throwing experience extremely high stresses on the elbow and especially the medial elbow. Medial elbow which is otherwise known as the inner portion of the elbow can be affected in the athletes by different injuries and these injuries are common and increasing in frequency.

The salient risk factors for these injuries are inadequate rest and overuse of the elbow that occurs due to repetitive supraphysiological forces acting on the elbow during the overhead throw. Most of the athletes improve substantially with non-cooperative treatment and plenty of rest while some may require surgical treatments. Currently, most athletes experience a low rate of complications and can return to a high level of play after ulnar collateral ligament construction.

The steady rise in the number of medial elbow injuries over the past few years has to lead to increased awareness regarding the pathophysiology of the ‘pitcher’s elbow.’ While searching for the treatment options, the fact that throwing is a dynamic movement and incorporates the entire body shouldn’t be neglected at all. 

What can be the Possible Causes for Elbow Pain?

Elbow Injuries in Athletes

There are hundreds of names for elbow injuries in athletes. Some of these include sprain of the ligament or ulnar collateral ligament pathology, cubital tunnel syndrome, tingling down the 4th and 5th fingers due to nerve compression. It is most often noticed that medial elbow pain develops when individuals exhibit balance deficits, limited hip mobility or limited shoulder range of motions. There can also be other possible reasons for elbow pain like:

  • Lack of flexibility or strength in the forearm muscles.
  • Lack of adequate strength in the shoulder muscles.
  • Poor technique during sports activities.
  • Continuously making the joints and muscles take heavy loads.
  • Repetitive movements of the hands and arms.
  • Strains and sprains.
  • Dislocated elbow.
  • Fractured elbow.
  • Radiohumeral bursitis.
  • Osteoarthritis.
  • Referred pain.
  • Nerve entrapment.
  • Osteochondritis dissecans.
  • Bone fracture.
  • Avulsion fracture.

What are the Symptoms of Elbow Pain?

If you are a throwing athlete, then elbow pain is perhaps a daily process for you and dealing with it would be so normal that you may often neglect the symptoms of a chronic elbow pain as well. Some of the possible symptoms of elbow pain include:

  • Weak grip.
  • Dull ache when at rest.
  • Pain while making a fist.
  • Pain while opening the fingers.
  • Soreness around the affected elbow bump.
  • When the arm is stretched out, you may often find difficulties and pain while trying to grasp objects.[1]

Medial Elbow Pain in Athletes

Before opting for diagnosing for thumb arthritis, a doctor will most likely examine the patient’s thumb and ask questions about:

  • The level of pain.
  • Movements that make the pain worse.
  • Whether there has been a prior injury.
  • Any other symptoms.

Then if necessary, the doctor will also typically perform diverse tests while the person moves the thumb around. They will also feel or listen for clicking or grinding joints or see if the joint is warmer than the surrounding tissue and if the joint is enlarged or tender. The doctor will also test the joint’s range of motion and then they may order an X-ray to examine the elbow and will reveal any bone spurs or calcium deposits. The X-ray can also show loss of space of deterioration between the bones. This will reveal if you have arthritis, just a minor elbow injury or any other severe issue that has been persisting for a longer period.

What are the Treatment Methods?

If you are prone to recurring bouts of elbow pain or if the symptoms don’t improve at all then see your doctor or the physiotherapist. The treatment options may include:

  • Acupuncture.
  • Heat and ice therapy.
  • Soft tissue massage.
  • Exercise prescribed by the physiotherapists to gradually strengthen the tendons.
  • Taping or bracing up the elbow.
  • Pain relieving and anti-inflammatory medications.
  • And in severe cases surgery if the pain has been persisting for more than 12 months.

Tennis Elbow Treatment

The treatment options for medial elbow pain initiates with improving the scapular mechanics. The scapular mechanics include the muscles that help you to lift your arm over your head. This should be coupled with strengthening and progressing to improve impairments at the shoulder, hip and elbow that may have been found during the elementary evaluations.[2]

Also, preventions are always welcome when it comes to avoiding elbow injuries in athletes. There are a lot of ways to reduce the risk of elbow injuries. Some of them are described below:

  • Make sure that you are using the right technique and have chosen the correct equipment when playing a definite sport.
  • Always warm up and cool down thoroughly while playing a sport.
  • Always prefer doing strengthening exercises with hand weights. If you don’t know any, then your physiotherapist can prescribe the correct exercises to correct your elbow.
  • Modify or avoid work tasks that put up excessive pressure on muscles of the forearm or that include the use of fingers, wrists or forearms in repetitive work involving awkward positions, forceful movements and lack of rest.

Things NOT to do During an Elbow Pain

  • Don’t engage yourself in extreme activities or repetitive, high impact exercises that can harm your elbow. Stop indulging yourself into kinds of stuff that is causing you pain. Your joints are already damaged and vigorous exercises like running, throwing, javelin or tennis can cause more damage to your joints. The ultimate result will lead to the need for joint replacement surgery. So you better stop doing what's hurting your joints. Don’t start it all at a time when you know that your joints are already going through a lot!
  • Don't be afraid to use assistive devices if you are suffering through the pain. Braces and canes are a significant way to reduce the pain of any kind and can help to increase the mobility of your joints. If you don’t know what kind of braces you need, then you may always refer to a therapist. Choosing the right assistive device can hold your joints in place and will prevent further deformities.
  • Don't rely on eating an unhealthy diet that packs on pounds. Obesity is one of the prime risk factors for life-threatening diseases that can cause the pain to become worse. Stop eating an unhealthy diet and include calcium as well as iron-rich edibles to balance your diet as they are a boon for the bones. The fact is that excess weight can put a lot of pressure on the weight-bearing joints that are more likely to make the arthritis pain worse. So refrain yourself from the food items that can stack up ponds of fat in your body.
  • Don’t fear medications that may help you for a better cause. Patients sometimes try to avoid drugs with the fear of getting addicted to them, and some even think that the drugs can disturb their natural biological process through potential serious side effects. Take your medications as directed by the doctor and don't fear about the consequences as pain reliever medicines has no significant side effects rather than helping your life to be more comfortable. Nevertheless, switch to a healthier way of living and see how your musculoskeletal structure will stay fit and fine like the rest of your body!
  • What are the Preventive Measures That You Can Take?

    Well, there is a plethora of option when it comes maintaining a healthy musculoskeletal structure. The first thing you can do is to control your diet and indulge food that balance the mixture of low cholesterol, high calcium and rich iron quantity in your diet. The next thing to do is to practice yoga and exercise daily. You need to take some time out for shaping up your body and gaining flexibility. This isn’t the sole cause though!

    Working out can increase your metabolism and burn your fats enabling your system to work more efficiently. But make sure that you don't start doing heavy ones all at once because the extra strain can damage your ligaments as well. The next thing to do is to refrain yourself from using smartphones over the day and limit your phone hours to a maximum time of 2-3 hours in which you can reply to messages and check notifications as well.

    You can also use an elbow support brace for preventing your elbow pain but using brace too much like while you are sleeping or something can make your body entirely dependent on the brace which isn't a really good thing. So make sure how frequently you are using your brace as well! The last one is maintaining proper posture so that you don’t look like a hunchback more often inviting your back pain to ruin you for the rest of your life. 











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