What is Golfer’s Elbow?
Medial epicondylitis, commonly known as golfers elbow, is a condition that causes pain on the inner part of the elbow. This is the part where tendons of the forearm muscles attach to a bony bump located on the inside of the elbow. Usually the pain may spread into your wrist and forearm.
Golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow are almost similar except that one (golfers elbow) affects the inner part of the elbow while the other (tennis elbow) affects the outer part of the elbow. It’s also important to note that golfer’s elbow is not limited to golfers. Yes, golfers are at a higher risk of being affected but anyone else who repeatedly uses their wrists and clenches their fingers can suffer from the condition.
Body anatomy and causes of golfer’s elbow
The pain caused by golfer’s elbow normally originates from the inside bump of the elbow also known as the medial epicondyle.
The muscles that pull the hand forward are known as wrist flexors. These wrist flexors are located on the inside part of the forearm and attach to the common flexor tendon which is one of the tendons found in medial epicondyle. The tendons then connect to various bones found within the arm.
Tendons are made of collagen strands lined up in bundles. Because of this they have high tensile strength. As you work, muscles pull the tendons which in turn pull the bones causing movement. When you flex your wrist, grip with your hand or twist your forearm downwards, the wrist flexor muscles contract pulling the flexor tendon along. As you grip a golf club during a golf swing, the forces that pull these tendons can build considerably causing strain to the flexor tendon.
Other activities that can strain your flexor tendon resulting in golfer’s elbow include;
- Racket sports
- Throwing sports
- Weight training
- Other activities including gardening, shoveling, and hammering.
The condition is most common in people older than 35 years.
The following are some of the signs and symptoms of golfers elbow;
- Pain and tenderness - on the inside of the elbow around the bony knob. Sometimes the pain may spread into the inner parts of the forearm.
- Stiffness – in the affected arm making it difficult to make a fist.
- Weakness – in the affected arm. The wrist and hands in general become notably weak.
- Numbness or tingling - that radiates into one or more fingers on the affected arm. The ring and little fingers are most commonly affected.
You need to see a doctor if;
- Your elbow is inflamed and you experience fever
- The elbow looks deformed
- You cannot bend the elbow
- You suspect it could be a broken bone.
At SportsMed Physical Therapy, our physical therapy specialists will first carefully examine the elbow to determine the extent of the injury. Sometimes an ultrasound scan or an MRI may be carried out for cases that are not responding to treatment.
Our physical therapists may advise that you apply cold ice to the affected part for 15 to 20 minutes for 3-4 days. They may also advise that you rest the arm for a few days to avoid aggravating the injury. Many times they’ll recommend a splint or strap for the first few days of treatment. Ibuprofen will usually be prescribed to relieve the pain and swelling.
Ultimately we use special exercises to treat the condition. The exercises and exercising schedules are developed by professionals and have been proven to work effectively. These exercises also train you on how to avoid such injuries in the future.