What is Golfer’s Elbow?
Golfer's elbow is a condition that causes pain where the tendons of your forearm muscles attach to the bony bump on the inside of your elbow. The pain might spread into your forearm and wrist.
Golfer's elbow is similar to tennis elbow, which occurs on the outside of the elbow. Although, not only golfers can develop this condition. Tennis players and others who repeatedly use their wrists or clench their fingers also can develop golfer's elbow.
What are the symptoms of Golfer’s Elbow?
Pain and tenderness on the inner side of your elbow. Sometimes the pain extends along the inner side of your forearm. Pain typically worsens with certain movements.
Stiffness. Your elbow may feel stiff, and it may hurt to make a fist.
Weakness. You may have weakness in your hands and wrists.
Numbness or tingling. These sensations might radiate into one or more fingers — usually the ring and little fingers.
The pain of golfer's elbow can come on suddenly or gradually. The pain might worsen when you:
- Swing a golf club or racket
- Squeeze or pitch a ball
- Shake hands
- Turn a doorknob
- Lift weights
- Pick up something with your palm down
- Flex your wrist
What causes Golfer’s Elbow?
Golfer's elbow, also known as medial epicondylitis, is caused by damage to the muscles and tendons that control your wrist and fingers. The damage is typically related to excess or repeated stress or overuse — especially forceful wrist and finger motions. Improper lifting, throwing or hitting, as well as too little warm-up or poor conditioning, also can contribute to golfer's elbow.
How is Golfer’s Elbow Diagnosed?
Golfer's elbow is usually diagnosed based on your medical history and a physical exam. To evaluate pain and stiffness, the doctor may apply pressure to the affected area or ask you to move your elbow, wrist, and fingers in various ways.
An X-ray can help the doctor rule out other causes of elbow pain, such as a fracture or arthritis. Sometimes, more comprehensive imaging studies — such as an MRI are performed.
What are the treatments for Golfer’s Elbow?
There are many treatment options available and results depend upon the severity of your case.
Rest. Put your golf game or other repetitive activities on hold until the pain is gone. If you return to activity too soon, you may make it worse.
Ice the affected area. Apply ice packs to your elbow for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, three to four times a day for several days. To protect your skin, wrap the ice packs in a thin towel. It might help to massage the inner elbow with ice for five minutes at a time, two to three times a day.
Take an over-the-counter pain reliever. Try ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve, others) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others).
Use a brace. Your doctor might recommend that you wear a counter force brace on your affected arm, which might reduce tendon and muscle strain.
Stretch and strengthen the affected area. Your doctor may suggest stretching and strengthening exercises. Physical or occupational therapy can be helpful, too. A type of strengthening (eccentric) that lengthens the tendon of the wrist extensor muscles has been shown to be particularly effective in treating chronic tendon irritation.
Reduce the load on your elbow tendons. Wrap your elbow with an elastic bandage or use a splint.
Gradually return to your usual activities. When your pain is gone, practice the arm motions of your sport or activity. Review your golf or tennis swing with an instructor and make adjustments if needed.
Some cases do not respond to non-surgical treatment. In these situations, surgery is necessary. Golfer’s Elbow surgery (called medial epicondylectomy and ulnar nerve release) involves creating an incision along the inner side of the elbow in order to access, and carefully remove the medial epicondyle (the bony bump located on the inner side of the elbow) that is putting pressure on the blocked ulnar nerve. Once removed, the ulnar nerve is able to glide freely as the elbow is used and when bent. Most patients have a good prognosis and are relieved of their symptoms.