Home > Blog > Physiotherapy > Hand Therapy > Conditions We Treat / Hand Conditions > Elbow Pain > Elbow Medial Collateral Ligament Strain Or Rupture Elbow Physiotherapy

Elbow Medial Collateral Ligament Strain Or Rupture Elbow Physiotherapy

We definitely will use our elbows extensively in a variety of day-to-day activities, which can cause a certain amount of pressure to build up cumulatively inside the elbow complex, especially if we use our elbows primarily in extension.

This kind of pressure, also known as medial overload, can eventually result in acute or chronic injuries to the elbow complex.

In this elbow pain article, we’ll be focusing on:

  • Elbow medial collateral ligament strain or rupture
  • Some of its common causes and symptoms
  • How it can be treated

What is Medial Collateral Ligament of the Elbow?

You shouldn’t confuse the elbow medial collateral ligament (MCL) with a similarly named ligament of the knee (which is also termed as medial collateral ligament - I know, it's an anatomy naming thing).

Anyway, an MCL sprain is basically defined as the tearing or overstretching of the ligament inside your elbow complex.

The elbow medial collateral ligament (MCL), also often referred to as the UCL (ulnar collateral ligament), of the elbow, refers to a strong band of connective tissue that’s part of the tendons and ligaments that help join the ulna (inner forearm) to the humerus (upper arm). It’s meant to provide stability and structure to the elbow and prevent medial forces from getting placed through the elbow.

And unfortunately, like any parts of our joints or body, our elbow medial collateral ligament can be injured. An elbow MCL sprain can occur when your elbow gets subjected to a laterally directed force.

Moreover, MCL tears or injuries may be acute or insidious.

It’s extremely important to understand the medial collateral ligament of the elbow pain or rupture in order to diagnose it properly and address other medial elbow conditions.

It’s worth noting that MCL injuries are essentially graded, according to the scale listed below:

  • Grade 1 – No loss of ligamentous integrity and fewer than 10 percent of fibers are damaged
  • Grade 2 – Increased joint laxity and incomplete tearing of the medial collateral ligament
  • Grade 3 –Gross laxity and complete tearing of the MCL

More often than not, there are some more structures that are damaged in grade 3 strain or rupture, which may include the elbow capsule, bony surfaces, and cartilage.

Most people with grade 1-2 ruptures tend to go back to normal within 6 to 12 weeks and return to high end sport at around 16+ weeks.

However, grade 3 injuries require a substantially long rehabilitation period that depends on the intensity of damage and whether or not surgical treatment is necessary.

Causes of elbow medial collateral ligament Strain and Injuries

In most people, elbow MCL injuries are rarely ever caused due to pressure inflicted on the joint while making a throwing motion.

But as far as athletes like javelin throwers, baseball pitches, and lacrosse players are concerned, the repetitive throwing required in their sport can (and may) eventually result in elbow injuries and pains due to

  • cartilage tears
  • bone spurs
  • swelling (inflammation) and even a
  • rupture in the ligament

Medial collateral ligament injury typically involves a sideways force being applied across the foreman that causes the ligaments to get overstretched and puts the inside of the joint under stress.

For instance, using a low elbow technique to throw a heavy object like a Javelin can place the inside of your elbow under a lot of stress.

The majority of beginners as well as some professional throwers prefer the low elbow technique because the arm is able to store quite a lot of energy and send the implement a long way.

However, it often comes at a price and the MCL of the elbow ends up having to pay for it.

Additionally, it has been observed that these ligament sprains are common in gymnastics as well as combat sports like Mixed Martial Arts and Judo.

Some other causes of the MCL strain/rupture include falling onto the arms or hands and traumatic injuries where the arm ends up buckling inwards.

Symptoms and Signs to Look Out for

When a person’s elbow MCL gets ruptured or injured, they’re still able to throw and have a complete range of movement in their elbow, but they won’t have the ability to inflict force into a throw.

Since these tears are a result of a gradual weakening of the ligament, it’s possible that, in some cases, a torn ligament may not immediately become clear.

It won’t be wrong to say that the symptoms of an MCL sprain or injury in the elbow largely depend on whether the injury is acute (sudden onset) or chronic(developed gradually with time).

Let’s take a look at some common symptoms of an elbow medial collateral ligament tear or injury:

  • Limited ability to perform certain motions
  • A minor swelling of the elbow joint
  • Bruising on the inside of the arm
  • A feeling of instability in the elbow, depending on the grade of the injury
  • An audible snap, pop, or collapsing when the injury occurs
  • Soreness, tightness, or stiffness along the inside of the elbow
  • A tingling or numbing sensation in the arm
  • Tenderness and pain when you press in the area of the ligament along the inside of the elbow
  • Requiring more time to warm up for a sport
  • Poor performance and a noticeable decrease in the pitching speed
  • Worsening of pain with repetitive movements

Who Is More at Risk of injuring their elbow medial collateral ligaments?

A medial collateral ligament sprain in the elbow is more often observed in athletics, especially overhead athletes like quarterbacks, javelin throwers, pitchers, as well as volleyball, water polo, and tennis players.

It’s also found to occur quite frequently among wrestlers.

That being said, it is also more common in individuals who are at risk of falling as well, which includes children, adults and elderly.

Treatment Options for Elbow Medial Collateral Ligament

Managing the MCL of the elbow depends largely on the intensity of the pain and the severity of the tear or rupture. In case of a complete tear, that may mean surgical intervention is necessary, which is then followed by physiotherapy.

The initial stages of treatment are aimed at reducing inflammation and pain and involve the price principles (Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, and last but not least, Elevation).


A person with an MCL sprain will be required to take a break from all kinds of activities that place the elbow under stress or may cause the symptoms to worsen. In case of mild tears, this often means a short rest period.

If the tear is caught early on, a modification technique that can help avoid putting the ligaments under stress can be enough. However, in the case of a severe acute injury or long-term chronic injury, complete rest may be required.

Ice / Cold Therapy

Ice may be applied, or cold therapy may be performed to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. It’s crucial to note that ice should not be applied directly to the area as it can lead to ice burn.

Consider wrapping the ice in a wet towel or get a cold therapy wrap to apply compression to the affected joint.


Compression can also help provide support and protection to the joint and reduce swelling. Wearing an elbow brace can help keep the area protect from further injuries while it heals.

Additionally, particularly for more severe cases, the following treatment options may be employed to relieve swelling and pain and protect the elbow joint:

Sports Massage

A sports massage can be helpful, friction techniques in particular, that can improve blood flow and break down as well as realign scar tissue.

Sports massage can and should be done after the acute phase of injury, not immediately as addition to hand and elbow physiotherapy following a medial collateral ligament injury.


A professional and experienced therapist may employ ultrasound therapy and other types of electrotherapy to tape the elbow joint in order to protect the ligaments and help reduce pain and inflammation.

Taping and Bracing

If somehow the ligaments are overstretched, this can cause long-term joint laxity. In such cases, the person may be required to wear a strong elbow strap to support and protect the ligaments.

Sports taping is also known to provide quite a lot of support but it doesn’t last for long as the tape gets stretched a little bit within a few hours.


In particularly extreme cases of elbow MCL strain, surgery is necessary for the reconstruction of the ligaments. This is typically considered as a last resort because the results aren’t found to be that effective.

How Physiotherapy Can Help Repair Medial Collateral Ligament Tears

In cases where there’s an incomplete tear or there’s simply a ligament strain, physiotherapy is considered as the best course of treatment and management.

Once the inflammation and pain has become manageable, then strengthening and mobility exercises for the elbow can be started that will focus on helping the person regain their strength and full range of motion.

Depending on how severe your sprain is, our senior principal physiotherapists and hand therapists will carry out in-depth assessment tests and diagnostic procedures to narrow down the main causes of the injury and determine the right course of treatment for you, so you can heal quickly and get back on the field.

Moreover, we will assist you in correcting any factors that may have contributed to your injury (such as overtraining and poor elbow technique) as well as teaching you joint mobility techniques and making modifications to your throwing technique with the help of exercise and strengthening programs that are geared towards natural healing.

If you’re interested in learning more about medial collateral ligament strain/injury and wish to discuss these physiotherapy treatment options at length,contact us now.

Back to Top

book an appointment today
(or check your pains / injuries)

Phoenix Rehab Physio Services

Phoenix Rehab Group works with specialist physiotherapists and rehab therapists who are highly trained, qualified, experienced and passionate to provide high level of expert care to our patients.


Patients who sustained injuries to their elbows, forearms, hands, wrists (sprains and fractures) and fingers, usually will benefit / require Hand Therapy to

  1. manage and decrease hand pains
  2. improve range of motion, strength and dexterity
  3. increase the function of their hand following injuries or post-operations

Commonly treated hand pain injuries includes


Clinical Pilates is a form of physical exercise that focuses on posture, core stability, balance, control, strength, flexibility and breathing.

It is a system of safe and effective exercises, which meet specific individual needs, to treat a wide range of injuries and conditions.

You may do Pilates as matwork or with the reformer or both, and every session will be customized 100% to your fitness, injury and tolerance.


  • Cupping TCM
  • Auricular Therapy TCM
  • Herbal TCM Medicine & Supplementation


Sports and deep tissue release massage helps to increase nutrient-rich blood flow to tired, tight and tense muscles to accelerate recovery and  shorten downtime / recovery period required.

It also prevents muscles from scar tissue micro-tears (and potential ruptures), and increases muscle performance. Having regular deep tissue and sports massage will keep your muscles healthy and fit with body/movement-confidence.

Read the benefits of regular deep tissue release therapy here.


All our allied health therapists and TCM physicians are fully insured and registered with Allied Health Professions Council (AHPC) and Traditional Chinese Medicine Board (TCMB).

See our entire team here with introductions and their specializations.

At the first session, our specialist physiotherapists will carry out a thorough assessment, helping them to select the most appropriate treatment to help you recover as well as provide treatment in the same session.

Follow up sessions are inline to provide expert treatment for your pain as well as prescribing specific exercises to reduce your risk of re-injury and giving you a long term solution.

do Tell Your Family, Friends And Colleagues About Us =)

We appreciate you as our valued clients and want you to know that the # 1 way we grow as a clinic / brand is through word of mouth referrals from valued patients like yourself.

We prefer not to rely on advertising - instead, we prefer and appreciate the goodwill and positive reinforcement from patients. When you have the chance, please tell your family, friends and physicians about the positive results and experience you have had in our physio clinics.

book an appointment today
(or check your pains / injuries)

Recent Articles

  1. Physiotherapy and Hand Therapy at Tampines Singapore

    Jan 18, 23 03:01 AM

    Phoenix Rehab Physiotherapy and Hand Therapy at Tampines Singapore

    Read More

  2. Germaine Sim Hand Therapist

    Dec 11, 22 03:43 AM

    Germain Sim is a hand therapist practicing hand therapy, splinting, assessing and treating finger, hand and elbow pains in Phoenix Rehab

    Read More

  3. Adele Ang Principal Physiotherapist Singapore

    Jun 29, 22 08:32 AM

    Adele is a registered physiotherapist with over 25 years of experience including treating national athletes as well as recreational athletes having worked in Singapore Sports Council and Singapore Spo…

    Read More

  4. Achilles Tendon Pain Physiotherapy

    Feb 03, 22 04:05 AM

    Achilles tendon pain is very common among recreational and elite sportspeople. But it is also common among sedentary individuals

    Read More

  5. Tendonitis Physiotherapy & Hand Therapy

    Feb 03, 22 12:16 AM

    Tendonitis, tendinopathy and tendinosis are all tendon injuries and treated by physiotherapists and hand therapists

    Read More

  6. Cervical Spondylosis Physiotherapy

    Jan 11, 22 02:01 AM

    Cervical spondylosis is a general term to describe the degenerative condition in the neck which results in pain and other symptoms

    Read More

  7. Tendon Pain Tendinopathy Physiotherapy

    Jan 07, 22 12:28 AM

    Tendinopathy (tendon injuries) can develop in any tendon of the body and has many names such as tendinitis and it can be treated with good tendon physiotherapy

    Read More

  8. The importance of staging and compression in tendinopathy physio

    Dec 15, 21 01:47 AM

    Tendon problems are common in runners and can become a persistent issue if not properly treated.

    Read More

  9. Tendon Pain Physiotherapy and Hand Therapy

    Dec 14, 21 11:23 PM

    Pain and pathology in a tendon, known as tendinopathy, is a common injury in athletes that can be difficult to manage. Physio and hand therapy can help healing

    Read More

  10. Tendon Injuries Physiotherapy, Hand Therapy, TCM & Massage

    Dec 07, 21 01:31 AM

    We use the world’s best tendon recovery programs through cutting edge treatment techniques for all tendon injuries (and tendon injuries differ accordingly)

    Read More