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What is Medial Epicondylitis?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 19 December 2017
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Golfer’s elbow or baseball elbow are more accurately termed medial epicondylitis by the medical community. This condition is similar to tennis elbow, but instead of causing discomfort on the outside of the elbow, it creates pain on the inside of the elbow and elsewhere. Like tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow is usually caused by overuse of specific muscles, which leads to miniscule rips in the tendons. These tears then result in inflammatory response, and the condition can take some time to calm down and stop creating pain.

While pain in medial epicondylitis may be most felt at the elbow, the damage to tendons really occurs in the forearm. Overuse of forearm muscles and wrist muscles might quickly result in this condition in some people. It’s certainly not exclusive to playing golf or hard and repeated throwing of a baseball. People dragging around a heavy suitcase for hours, or carrying an overfull briefcase or laptop case for many hours each day might experience medial epicondylitis. Any activity that overuses the muscles and the tendons of this area could cause inflammation to occur from tendon damage.

The symptoms of medial epicondylitis are usually fairly easy to understand. Pain occurs on the inside of the elbow and may move or radiate down the forearm. Discomfort could be especially noted any time a person has to use the arm or hand for tasks. Resting the arm, conversely, can relieve discomfort.

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These symptoms should be taken seriously, and people are advised to see a physician. Diagnosis of the condition is normally made when a doctor asks about activities the person has participated in lately. Often activities like golf or recent bouts of baseball are clear indications of medial epicondylitis. Sometimes a physician might need greater information or want to rule out other conditions, and he or she might recommend an x-ray or other scans.

When patients are diagnosed with medial epicondylitis, doctors generally take a conservative approach. The patient will be advised to the rest the arm, ice it every three to four hours, possibly use a bandage to stabilize the arm, and perhaps elevate it to reduce any swelling. This is known as the RICE method. In addition to practicing RICE, people may need to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), when able, because these can help reduce swelling of the muscles and tendons.

The issue of when to resume activity is a judgment call for the physician, and most times treatment lasts at least a week or two before people are encouraged to begin activity at a very slow and gradual pace. Depending on severity of medial epicondylitis, doctors might want people to first begin with physical therapy. In a few instances, more severe damage to the tendons has occurred and surgery might be required to repair this damage. Yet in most cases, golfer’s elbow gets better with RICE, NSAIDs, and slow return to activities, though people might be more prone to a repeat case in the future.

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