Golfer’s Elbow – Medial Epicondylitis

What exactly is Golfer’s Elbow?

It is the opposite of Tennis Elbow, which hurts on the outside of the elbow. Golfer’s Elbow hurts on the inside and is caused by an inflammation of the tendon where the forearm muscles connect to the bone. When the tendon gets overused, the boney protrusion at the outside of the inner elbow becomes aggravated and causes pain. Even though this problem afflicts men by a 2:1 ratio, ladies also can be affected. You can develop this problem even if you have never picked up a golf club, because it is usually caused by repetitive motion, which causes stress to the tendon. Golfer’s Elbow can be a very painful problem, but it can be easily treated.

What are the symptoms?

Usually, you feel pain on the inside of the elbow, which can radiate into the forearm and hand. It can start gradually or all at once. Numbness, tingling, stiffness and weakness are common. It may hurt when you make a fist or your pinky and/or ring finger may become numb or tingle. Your hand or wrist may feel weak when you try to grasp something, like a doorknob or shake someone’s hand. It can be very uncomfortable, but if at any time you experience a lot of swelling or stiffness and you develop a fever, you should seek immediate medical attention. That can indicate a more severe problem.

How can You treat Golfer’s Elbow at Home?

It is recommended that you rest your arm, use an over the counter anti-inflammatory medication, like Aleve or Ibuprofen, and use an ice pack (intermittently). If you do all three faithfully for seven days and do not improve, you should consider a consultation with an OSC specialist.

What Can You Expect During Your Appointment?

When you come into OSC for a consultation, you will have a physical examination of your hand, arm and elbow to test your range of motion and to see how limited you might be. X-rays will be ordered to make sure that you don’t have a broken bone or something else going on with your elbow joint. You will be asked questions about your lifestyle and activities to try and pinpoint why you are having the trouble with your elbow and what may have started the problem.

Often, your workout routine, your position on the church softball team, or tasks that you perform every day at your job will give your OSC Physician important clues needed to ascertain how the problem started and how your activities may be modified to allow for healing. You may simply have poor form in your golf swing, the way you pitch a softball or in other areas, that can be addressed which will reduce stress on the tendon and allow it to heal.

What treatments will an OSC Orthopaedic Physician Provide?

Non-Surgical Treatments

Gentle exercise is usually recommended for this problem more often than anything. Rarely does anyone do exercises to strengthen their forearms and this is exactly what needs to happen. A stronger prescription anti-inflammatory or a steroid injection may also be helpful. For a particularly bad case, I may also suggest an injection of PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma), which uses the body’s own healing agents to treat the inflamed tendon. Physical Therapy may also be appropriate for a case that is difficult to heal.

Surgery

Rarely is surgery necessary. However, there is a surgical release for this condition that can be done for cases that do not respond to any other form of treatment. The procedure is performed as Outpatient Surgery and the tendon is released where it attaches to the bone. The bone is then made to bleed, by punching tiny holes into it. Any damaged areas of the tendon are then cut out and the tendon is then reattached to the bleeding bone, which speeds the healing process.

How Can You Prevent Golfer’s Elbow?

Learn good form from a sports professional and maintain it when playing your chosen sport, whether it be golf, baseball, softball, etc. Many times, the wrists are overused in the swing, to compensate for weakness in the core of the body. Work on strengthening the core and legs for a stronger overall swing with better form.

A strengthening program for the forearms and wrists is also a great idea to prevent golfer’s elbow. Start using very light weights and simply flex the wrists up and down to increase strength and endurance. This easy exercise can make a huge difference in your game and keep you from injury.