Golfer's elbow

‘Golfer’s elbow’, the name itself indicates as the condition suffered by golfers. But it is not limited to the people who play golf; it also affects the people who repeatedly uses their wrist or clenches their fingers. It is similar to tennis elbow which occurs outside of the elbow, but it occurs inside of the elbow. In the case of tennis elbow, extensor muscles of the forearm are affected, and pain is seen in the lateral elbow and upper forearm.

Golfer’s elbow is also referred as medial epicondylitis. It is an injury to the muscles that are used to flex wrist and fingers. The injury occurs on a bony bump on the inside of the elbow where the muscles are attached. The site of injury is called medial epicondyle and hence it is called as medial epicondylitis. It causes pain in the muscles and the tendons that are attached to the site. The pain can spread to forearm and wrist.

Causes

Overuse of the muscles damage the muscle tissue and develop a tear at the site where it anchors to the arm bone and elbow. It can happen when repeated stress is applied on the muscles. Repeated bending and straightening of the elbow can lead to golfer’s elbow. Some of the cases where it occurs repeatedly are painting, raking, chopping wood, using a computer, doing assembly-line work, hammering, and cooking. Chronic Golfer’s elbow can also occur due to the poor health of the soft tissues in the region. The injury can occur quickly leading to inflammation, pain, and swelling of the elbow. The golfer’s elbow can occur due to overdoing of some sports such as golf, racket sports, throwing sports, and weight lifting.

Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of Golfer’s elbow include

  • Pain and tenderness inside elbow
  • Numbness
  • Tingling sensation
  • Weakness
  • Stiffness

The pain may worsen in conditions such as

  • Squeezing
  • Pitch a ball
  • Flexing wrist
  • Shaking hands
  • Lifting weights
  • Turning a doorknob
  • Swing a golf club or racket
  • Pick up something from down with palm

If golfer’s elbow left untreated, it could lead to complications such as

  • Severe elbow pain
  • Limited range of motion
  • A lasting bend in elbow

The symptoms of tennis elbow include gradual onset of pain at the lateral epicondyle that radiates to the forearm. The pain worsens if you perform extension movements of the forearm.

Risk factors

The risk of developing a golfer’s elbow or tennis elbow increases with age (usually above 40), obesity, smoking and performing repeated elbow activities.

Diagnosis

It is usually diagnosed by a physical examination. It involves the application of pressure and moving the arm, wrist, and fingers in different ways. An X-ray will be helpful to rule out the exact cause of the pain. Sometimes MRI scan may also be suggested by the doctor.

Treatment

The treatment for tennis elbow is similar to that of treatment for golfer’s elbow. Depending on the severity of pain and the diagnostic result, your doctor suggests some activities to relieve the pain and return to usual activities. They include:

Rest : The doctor suggests to take rest until the pain is gone, repeated activity may worsen the pain.

Pain relievers : The doctor suggests taking over-the-counter pain relievers to get some relief from the pain. Some of them include ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and acetaminophen.

Placing ice on the affected area : Application of ice packs on the affected for 15 to 20 minutes and two to three times a day helps to alleviate pain.

Braces : Use of braces can help to reduce stain on muscles and tendons.

Elastic bandage or splint : Use of elastic bandage or splint to wrap on elbow can reduce the load on the elbow.

Stretching and strengthening exercises : These exercises help in gradually reducing the pain.

If the pain does not subside in 6 to 12 months, surgery can be suggested by your doctor to remove the scar tissue from the region (guided by ultrasound). It is not required as the pain usually subsides by following the measures suggested by your doctor.

Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are self-limiting conditions. Tennis elbow cure is usually seen within one year. The recovery period is also similar to golfer’s elbow.

Prevention

These conditions can be prevented by:

  • Lifting properly
  • Resting periodically
  • Strengthening the muscles
  • Stretching before the activity
  • Using the appropriate equipment