GOLFER’S ELBOW (MEDIAL EPICONDYLITIS)
Golfer’s elbow, or medial epicondylitis, is a form of tendinitis that causes pain and inflammation where the tendons of your forearm muscles attach to the bony bump on the inside of the elbow. Despite its name, you do not have to be an athlete, or play golf, to develop golfer’s elbow. Any repetitive hand, wrist, or forearm motions can contribute to medial epicondylitis.
Golfer’s elbow affects the tendons attached to the muscles on the inner side (medial) of the elbow, which work to flex the wrist and contract the fingers when you grip something. In contrast, tennis elbow affects the tendons attached to the muscles on the outer (lateral) side of the elbow, which work to extend the wrist backwards and straighten the fingers.
COMMON CAUSES OF GOLFER’S ELBOW
Golfer’s elbow, or medial epicondylitis, is often the result of overusing the forearm muscles that allow you to grip, flex the wrist, and rotate the arm. The repetitive stress can cause tiny tears in the tendons that attach the forearm to the elbow. Any repetitive hand, wrist, or forearm movements can lead to golfer’s elbow. Sports such as golf, tennis, bowling, and baseball can cause damage to the tendons in the elbow. Additionally, jobs involving the use of tools like screwdrivers and hammers, raking, and paint can also cause irritation to the tendons in the elbow.
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF GOLFER’S ELBOW
Patients experiencing symptoms related to medial epicondylitis often describe:
- Pain and tenderness: on the inside of the elbow that can come on suddenly or gradually. Panful symptoms can also radiate along the inside of the forearm and typically are worse with certain movements
- Stiffness: in the elbow and pain when making a fist
- Weakness: in the hand and wrist
- Numbness and tingling: in the fingers, typically in the ring and little fingers
To diagnose golfer’s elbow, your physician will first conduct a physical exam to assess symptoms such as swelling and tenderness in the elbow. The physician will also perform a series of movements to check your arm, wrist, and elbow to try and replicate any painful symptoms. X-rays help determine the condition of the elbow and can help rule out other potential problems. An MRI may also be needed in order to see of soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, tendons) within the elbow.
Golfer’s elbow, or medial epicondylitis, is usually treated effectively with rest. The R.I.C.E. method is a simple self-care technique that helps reduce swelling, ease pain, and speed the healing process.
- Rest: golfer’s elbow is a condition caused by repetitive stress and overuse. When you begin experiencing pain and discomfort in the elbow, rest can help give the inflamed tendon time to heal
- Ice and Cold Packs: can help reduce pain and swelling. Ice should be applied for about 15 minutes several times a day
- Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication: Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) can ease mild to moderate pain and reduce inflammation
- Braces and Splints: supportive bracing on the forearm can help take pressure off the tendons in the elbow. A wrist splint worn at night can help rest the muscles and tendons in the lower extremities
Your physician my also recommend a corticosteroid injection to treat painful symptoms and reduce inflammation in the elbow. Physical therapy can also help reduce pain, speed the recovery process, and reduce the risk of reinjuring the elbow.
Conservative treatments usually work for golfer’s elbow. However, if painful symptoms remain after three to six months of conservative treatment, you may need surgery. The surgical procedure for golfer’s elbow removes any damaged parts of the tendons in the elbow. Full recovery after surgery may take three to six months.