Medial elbow pain refers to pain on the inner portion of the elbow. In overhead throwing athletes medial elbow pain can be caused by different injuries, including cubital tunnel syndrome, the tingling down the 4th and 5th fingers due to nerve compression, or ulnar collateral ligament pathology, a sprain of the ligament that leads to pain. It is often found that this type of elbow pain develops when individuals exhibit limited shoulder range of motion, balance deficits, and limited hip mobility.
When evaluating a throwing athlete, the elbow is not the only region that should be investigated. The shoulder, scapular region, and hip should be examined because throwing is a dynamic movement that incorporates your entire body. Research shows that throwing athletes are more likely to experience medial elbow pain when they have decreased balance on their throwing arm side, limited hip internal rotation at both hips, and limited total rotation motion at their throwing shoulder compared to the non-dominant side.
Treatment options for this condition should start with improving the scapular mechanics – the muscles that help you lift your arm over your head – along with strengthening and progressing to improve impairments at the elbow, shoulder, and hip that may have been found during the initial evaluation. Manual therapy is also another treatment option for medial elbow pain, and typically focuses on improving elbow, hip, and shoulder areas through mobilizations as well as improving neuromuscular firing, neural tension, and spinal mobility. Overall, this mobility is crucial and required to pitch or throw a baseball effectively and efficiently to prevent further injuries from happening.
If you are suffering from medial elbow pain or exhibit any of the potential causes discussed above, make an appointment with a PT Solutions therapist today to get back to your sport and avoid further injury.
About the PT
John Michael Caraway, DPT, is a clinic director and resident in the PT Solutions Orthopaedic Residency program. He graduated from the University of Montevallo with a Bachelors of Science in Biology and went on to earn his Doctorate of Physical Therapy from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Being a former collegiate baseball pitcher himself, John Michael is passionate about treating overhead throwing athletes with shoulder and elbow pathology.