Medial epicondylitis is the medical term for a type of tendinitis referred to as golfer’s elbow, baseball elbow, suitcase elbow or forehand tennis elbow. The name is a bit of a misnomer, as most people with the condition do not play tennis or golf. It’s characterized by pain that starts on the inside (medial side) of the elbow and travels down to the wrist.
The pain is caused by damage to the tendons that bend the wrist toward the palm. Tendons are tough cords of tissue that connect muscles to bones.
Medial epicondylitis can occur when you use excessive force to bend your wrist toward your palm. This can happen when swinging a golf club or pitching a baseball, but it can also result from carrying a heavy suitcase, chopping wood, or regularly using certain hand tools—especially if you have weak shoulder and wrist muscles.
You may be at higher risk of developing this condition if you are over 40, obese, smoke and perform a repetitive activity for two or more hours each day.
Treatment for medial epicondylitis begins with stopping the activity that produces the symptoms. Most people feel better with rest, ice and over-the-counter pain relievers.
If left untreated, tennis elbow may result in persistent pain or weakness, especially if you repeatedly “play through” the pain. Rarely, rupture of the muscles at the elbow can occur.
Because the symptoms of medial epicondylitis can be similar to other conditions such as cubital tunnel syndrome [LINK to Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Condition page] or arthritis, it’s important to see a specialist for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Why Choose Us to Diagnose and Treat Golfer’s or Baseball Elbow
Cooper University Health Care has a team of four fellowship-trained and board-certified or -eligible hand surgeons with extensive experience in diagnosing and treating medial epicondylitis. You can count on us for:
- Thorough, accurate diagnosis: A Cooper specialist can usually diagnose medial epicondylitis based on your medical history and a physical exam. An x-ray can help your doctor rule out other causes of elbow pain, such as arthritis or a fracture.
- Personalized treatment: While treatment begins by avoiding the activity that triggers your pain, it may also include:
- Icing (to reduce inflammation)
- Strengthening and stretching exercises
- Anti-inflammatory oral medicines
- Bracing the affected area
- Platelet-rich plasma injections that may help speed healing
- Surgery (in rare cases) to repair the tendon
- A new approach called the TENEX procedure involves minimally invasive, ultrasound-guided removal of scar tissue in the area where you feel tendon pain
Golfer’s and Baseball Elbow Causes and Risk Factors
Medial epicondylitis is caused when the muscles and tendons that control your wrist and fingers are damaged. This usually results from excess or repetitive stress, including forceful wrist and finger motions, which is common in golf.
Other culprits in medial epicondylitis include:
- Improper technique in weight lifting, throwing sports (such as baseball or softball) and racket sports
- Football, javelin throwing and archery can also cause medial epicondylitis
- Serving with great force in tennis or using a spin serve
- Not enough warm up or poor conditioning before undertaking these activities
- Forceful, repetitive on-the-job movements in such fields as carpentry, construction or plumbing
- Weak shoulder and wrist muscles
Some factors that put you at higher risk of developing golfer’s or baseball elbow include:
- Age: You’re 40 or older
- Frequency of repetitive motion: Problems generally occur if you perform a repetitive activity at least two hours a day over many days
- Weight: Obesity is linked to medial epicondylitis
- Smoking: Tobacco use is another risk factor for this condition
Symptoms of Golfer’s and Baseball Elbow
These are the most common symptoms of golfer’s and baseball elbow (medial epicondylitis):
- Pain and tenderness along the palm side of the forearm, from the elbow to the wrist, on the same side as the little finger; it may come on suddenly or gradually
- The pain can be felt when bending the wrist toward the palm against resistance, or when squeezing a rubber ball. Making a fist might also hurt.
- Weakness in your hands and wrists
- Stiffness in your elbow
- Numbness or tingling that may radiate into your fingers (usually the ring and little fingers)
Preventing Golfer’s and Baseball Elbow
The most effective ways to prevent medial epicondylitis are:
- Strengthen your forearm muscles
- Warm up and stretch before exercising or using your arms for sports or other repetitive movements
- If you play a racket sport or other sport that puts stress on your elbows, make sure you’re using the proper technique and that your equipment is right for you
- Lift properly
- Know when to rest
To learn more about the services available for treating golfer’s or baseball elbow at Cooper or to request an appointment, please call 800.8.COOPER (800.826.6737).
Refer a Patient
If you are a doctor who wants to refer a patient to Cooper for medial epicondylitis care, please call 800.826.6737.