What Is Golfer's Elbow?
Golfer's elbow (medial epicondylitis) causes pain and inflammation in the tendons that connect the forearm to the elbow. The pain centers on the bony bump on the inside of your elbow and may radiate into the forearm. It can usually be treated effectively with rest.
Golfer's elbow is usually caused by overusing the muscles in the forearm that allow you to grip, rotate your arm, and flex your wrist. Repetitive flexing, gripping, or swinging can cause pulls or tiny tears in the tendons. Despite the name, this condition doesn't just affect golfers. Any repetitive hand, wrist, or forearm motions can lead to golfer's elbow. Risky sports include tennis, bowling, and baseball - in fact, it's sometimes called pitcher's elbow. People may also get it from using tools like screwdrivers and hammers, raking, or painting.
Golfer's elbow is not as well known as its cousin, tennis elbow. Both are forms of elbow tendinitis. The difference is that tennis elbow stems from damage to tendons on the outside of the elbow, while golfer's elbow is caused by tendons on the inside. Golfer's elbow is also less common.
Symptoms of golfer's elbow
The primary symptom of golfer's elbow is pain that is centred near the bony knob on the inside of the elbow. Sometimes it extends all along the inner forearm. You're most likely to feel it when you bend your arm inwards or flex your wrist towards the body. In most cases, the pain becomes gradually worse.
Diagnosing golfer's elbow
Your doctor will carefully examine your elbow and arm to make the diagnosis. It is unlikely that any other investigations will be required, although sometimes an ultrasound scan or even an MRI may be carried out in severe cases that are not responding to treatment.
Treatment for golfer's elbow
As with any overuse injury, it's crucial to get treatment for golfer's elbow quickly. Initially, apply ice (wrapped in cloth so it is not in direct contact with the skin) to your elbow for 15-20 minutes three to four times per day. You will need to rest the elbow and avoid movements that aggravate the problem, You may need to modify the way you carry out everyday activities. You may benefit from a splint or strap to prevent pulling of the injured tendon.
Your doctor will probably recommend an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug), like ibuprofen, to reduce pain and swelling - these are also available over-the-counter. These are available in tablet, cream and gel forms.
If the symptoms are troublesome, you may also be given an injection of a corticosteroid, usually mixed with a local anaesthetic, into the tender area of inflammation. This may relieve pain and swelling in the short term, however, the effectiveness of this treatment is not always good.