THIS POST IS PART OF THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO SPORTS MEDICINE
Golfer’s elbow, also known as medial epicondylitis, 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.
The elbow joint is where three bones in your arm meet: the upper arm bone (humerus) and the two bones in your forearm (radius and ulna). At the bottom of the humerus there are bony bumps called epicondyles; the bony bump on the outside (lateral side) of the elbow is called the lateral epicondyle. Muscles, ligaments and tendons hold the elbow joint together.
The piece of bone that can be felt on the inner side of the elbow is called the medial epicondyle. When the tendons attached to this bone are overstretched, torn or inflamed, they can become painful. Golfer’s elbow is caused by overusing the flexor muscles of the forearms. Overusing these muscles can stretch or tear the tendons attached to the medial epicondyle.
- Overuse of the hand and forearm
- Underlying inflammatory joint disease
- Elbow arthritis
- Improper golf swing technique or grip of golf clubs
- Improper technique for hitting a tennis ball
- Improper size of tennis racquet or tension of racquet strings
- Doing certain arm motions too much, such as: painting, raking, pitching, rowing or using a hammer
Symptoms of golfer’s elbow
- Pain and tenderness of the inner side of the elbow
- Stiff elbow
- Weakness in hands and wrist
To determine whether you have golfers elbow, your physician will ask you for a complete medical history and when you started experiencing elbow pain, have you describe your symptoms and conduct a physical examination. An X-ray or MRI may be necessary to identify the specific injury related to the elbow.
Golfers elbow treatment
In most cases treatment includes nonsurgical methods such as:
- Rest or activity modification (decrease playing time or technique)
- Ice or heat
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (ie. ibuprofen or topical Voltaren gel)
- Oral glucosamine sulfate
- Wrist brace
- Stretching and strengthening the forearm and grip
- Physical therapy for modalities
- Cortisone injection (make an appointment with an OrthoIndy non-operative, pain management physician)
- Platelet rich plasma injection
If symptoms do not respond after 6 to 12 months of nonsurgical treatments, your physician may recommend surgery.
In surgery for golfers elbow, the surgeon debrides the involved tendon and prepares the bone to help the tendon heal. A small bone anchor may or may not be used to help secure the tendons in place.
The recovery from medial epicondylitis takes around three months. There will be immobilization of the wrist in the immediate post-operative period with normal movement of the elbow. Gradually wrist movement will be permitted followed by elbow and wrist strengthening.
Learn more about hand, wrist and elbow treatment at OrthoIndy.