Understanding, Diagnosing, and Treating Golfer’s Elbow

Golfers Elbow Golfer’s Elbow is a condition where the patient experiences pain on the inner side of the elbow. Formally known as medial epicondylitis, this condition affects the muscle tendons of the forearm, which are attached to the skeletal bump on the anterior elbow area. As a result of this, the patient can also experience in the entire forearm as well as the wrist joint.

This problem is similar to another condition called like tennis elbow. The difference is that tennis elbow occurs on the outer part of the elbow. The name ‘Golfer’s Elbow’ comes from the fact that the tendons of the forearms usually get stressed while making a golf swing.

What Causes Golfer’s Elbow?

Golfer’s elbow can be caused by an acute injury, or due to overuse injury (repeated strain on a body part).  Patients who perform certain actions repeatedly such as vigorous hand gripping, and flexing the wrist joint against some resistance can suffer from golfer’s elbow.  Activities such as lifting, throwing, or hitting may contribute to Golfer’s elbow. Sometimes, this problem may occur suddenly in some patients. This may happen due to any forceful movement that involves sudden flexing of the wrist or forearm.

Symptoms of Golfer’s Elbow

Generally, the symptoms of golfer’s elbow develop slowly over a period of time. The symptoms may be listed as the following:

  • Pain – The patient feels pain on the inner i.e. medial side of elbow. Sometimes, the pain may travel along the inner side of the forearm. Characteristically, the patient may feel the pain while performing activities involving gripping or flexing of the wrist or fingers. The patient may also feel pain if muscles of forearm are stretched. Tenderness – There may be tenderness over the prominent bone of the elbow joint. This is known as the epicondyle.
  • Stiffness – The patient may feel stiffness at the elbow joint, and it may also cause pain while flexing the fingers.
  • Weakness – Another symptom is the patient experiencing weakness in the hands and wrists while performing activities.
  • Numbness or tingling – Some patients may experience numbness or tingling sensation in one or more fingers.

Diagnosis

  • Clinical Diagnosis – A doctor can diagnose golfer’s elbow after carefully listening to the patient’s history of daily activities, and examining the elbow for injuries of any kind. The doctor will also ask questions in regards to the various symptoms associated with the condition. The doctor may also request the patient to undergo a few clinical tests for confirmation. An ultrasound scan or an MRI is the best tests to identify any tendon tears or inflammation.

Treatment

If you are a patient who has been diagnosed with golfer’s elbow, it is imperative that you begin treatment as soon as possible. The sooner you begin treatment, the sooner you’ll be able to return to your usual activities.

  • Rest – Stop these repetitive activities that are giving you pain. If you go back to those activities too soon, you may worsen the condition. Also, take care to reduce the load and not put too much stress on your elbow.
  • Ice Application – Applying ice packs to elbow for 15 to 20 minutes, three to four times a day for several days may give you relief from golfer’s elbow.
  • Pain Killers – There are some painkillers such as ibuprofen, naproxen or acetaminophen, which can be taken for temporary relief.

If rest, ice and over-the-counter pain relievers don’t ease the elbow pain, you should consult the doctor once again. You should consult the doctor immediately if you are experiencing the following symptoms:

  • The elbow feels hot or inflamed
  • You catch fever due to the condition
  • You can’t bend your elbow or your elbow looks deformed

 

  • Stretching and Strengthening Exercises – Your doctor may suggest specific stretching and strengthening exercises for the elbow muscles.
  • Other Medications – If over-the-counter pain relievers are not effective; your doctor may recommend other pain relieving medicine. However, it should be told that these medicines usually provide only short-term pain relief.
  • Local Injection – Topical medication (such as gels, creams, lotion, etc.) can help at times. Your doctor may give an injection comprising corticosteroids or painkillers in the area of inflammation around the medial epicondyle. This may relieve pain and swelling in the short term. Nowadays, doctors also suggest treatment with Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP Injection) injections instead of corticosteroid. PRP promotes healing with the help of growth factors in PRP.
  • Use of Braces – Braces specifically made for golfer’s elbow can be used to support the muscles. Another option is that you can wrap the elbow using an elastic bandage. This will help in maintaining a rigid wrist position during all lifting activities.

A combination of the treatment options, along with the doctor’s advice, can help you seek long-term relief from golfer’s elbow.