Golfer'S Elbow

1 What is Golfer's Elbow?

Golfer's Elbow is a condition that causes pain to the elbow at that position where the tendons of the forearm muscles attach to the bony bump on the inside of the elbow.

This pain sometime may grow to the forearm and the wrist. Golfer’s elbow is also similar to the tennis elbow and may occur outside of the elbow.

However, this condition is not limited to the golfers, since tennis players and others that repeatedly twist their wrists and clench their fingers also develop the golfer’s elbow.

The pain created in the Golfer’s elbow may not limit your activities; however, with rest and good treatment, one can get back to the swinging position. 

2 Symptoms

The signs and symptoms in the Golfer's elbow may include:

  • Pain and tenderness on the inner side of your elbow.

The pain may sometimes extend on the inner side of the forearm. It may also get worse with certain movements. In addition, it is stiff and makes one to feel pain when making a fist.

It is also associated with weakness in the hands and wrists. It causes numbness or tingling which may radiate to the fingers.

The pain may also come suddenly or gradually. It may get worse with swinging of a gold club or racket squeeze or when pitching a ball or shake hands and even when turning a door knob, lift some weights, flex your wrist etc.

Consult your doctor immediately for over the counter pain relievers. However, seek immediate care and management when your elbow becomes hot and inflamed and have some slight fever.

In case, you are not able to bend your elbow, then it may be deformed and can only be managed by a doctor.

3 Causes

Golfer's elbow is caused by the damage to the muscles and tendons that have control of your wrists and hold your fingers in position. Golfer's elbow is also referred to as medial epicondylitis. 

The damage is induced by the use of excess and repeated stress when forcing the wrist and fingers in motion.

It can also be caused by the improper lifting or weights or throwing or hitting. It may also be caused by little warm up or conditioning.

It is associated with many activities such as gripping or swinging clubs incorrectly or forcefully taking a toll in the muscles or tendons.

In racket sports, it can be caused by excessive top spin which can hurt your elbow. Use of a very small or very heavy racket can also cause injury.

In throwing sports, improper pitching in baseball or softball can cause Golfer’s elbow.

In weight training, lifting weights in an improper manner with curling of the wrist when exercising the biceps may lead to the overload of the elbow, muscles and tendons leading to the disease.

Other practices such as painting, raking, hammering, chopping wood, using a computer, cooking etc may not lead to the development of the Golfer’s elbow disease.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Making a diagnosis of golfer's elbow is done by performing tests based on the medical records and physical exams.

One may need to start by seeing a primary care physician. In case the symptoms do not get better with ice, rest and common over the counter drugs, then a sports medicine specialist or doctor will need to evaluate you for the musculoskeletal disorders.

When ready to see a doctor, prepare for the session by making a list of the key medical information that may be helpful during the visit.

This will include the medical history, drugs and medications in use.

Moreover, capture the typical activities you are involved in on a daily basis.

Also mention:

  • How long, often and hard you are involved in sporting activities that weight down on your elbow.
  • Have you recently changed on the frequency of activity and intensity or method of workouts?
  • Have you ever had any form of injuries on the elbow?

Some of the questions that you may consider asking your doctor includes:

  • What is the possible cause of the pain in the elbows?
  • Are there other causes?
  • Do I need lab tests for this condition?
  • What are the treatment methods that you recommend for this condition?
  • After treatment, can be able to engage in the same activities?
  • How long do I need to avoid working?
  • What types of exercise can I do to support the healing?
  • Is surgery required for this condition?

The possible questions that may come from your doctor may also include:

  • How do you describe the pain?
  • Mild or severe?
  • Is the pain also constant?
  • Do actions that involve the bending and stretching of the elbow cause pain?
  • Is it affecting your sleep?
  • Is the pain affecting you achievement of daily tasks?
  • Are they affecting your sleep?
  • What exercise do you do routinely?
  • Have you tried using home treatments?
  • Did they cause any improvements?

In the evaluation of pain and or stiffness of the elbow, the doctor may apply some slight pressure to the affected region. You also be asked to move your elbow, wrists, and fingers in many other ways.

Imaging techniques such as X-ray can be of help to rule out other causes of pain in the elbow such as fracture or arthritis. MRI can rarely be applied for this condition.

5 Treatment

It is advisable to get treatment for golfer's elbow as soon as possible. This will allow you get back to your usual activities. Rest is also recommended until when the pain is gone.

Apply ice packs to elbow for about 15-20 minutes at a time three to four times a day for a week or two. Protect your skin by wrapping the ice In a towel.

Over the counter pain relievers may also be of help such as Ibuprofen, naphroxen acetaminophen and other related trade names.

You can also use a brace as a counter force brace on the affected arm which may reduce the tendon and muscle strain.

It is also advisable to stretch and strengthen the affected area.

One may also opt for occupational therapy. It has been shown that strengthening of the eccentric lengthens the tendon of the wrist extensor muscles is effective in the management of the chronic tendon irritation.

One can also reduce the load on the elbows tendons. Wrapping the elbow with an elastic bandage is very useful. Introduce your elbow gradually to the usual activities one the pain is gone.

Make a review of how to swing a golf or tennis with an instructor and make the changes.

However, the signs and symptoms do not respond to the primary care in 6-12 months, surgery may be considered an option. Ultra sound guided removal of the scarred tissue may be performed in the region of the tendon pain.

Other forms of treatment may include the use of corticosteroid injections as a long term treatment option. The use of platelet rich plasma is also being explored as a new form of treatment for the condition.

This involves drawing a small volume of the blood, spinning it and injecting it into the tender area of the tendon.

Some people may get better with simple rest, ice or use of pain relievers. However, this will vary with the severity of the condition; some pain may be present for several months and recurrent even after completely healing. 

6 Prevention

Golfer’s elbow can be prevented using a number of procedures.

An arm can be strengthened by the use of lightweights, squeezing of a tennis ball, use of simple exercises that can help the muscles absorb energy of sudden physical stress.

Engaging in simple exercises can also be beneficial in training your muscles to absorb sudden energy and stress. One can also stretch before engaging in any form of physical activity.

Jog and walk for a few minutes to warm up your muscles and then perform gentle stretches before the game can begin.

Request your instructor to check on your form to avoid overloads on the muscles. Use the rights equipments when exercising.

Consider using lighter graphite clubs when using the older golfing iron. Using a racket that has a firm grip of playing tennis, similarly, the use of a heavy head, may increase problems with the elbow.

Lift everything properly including the free weights. Always ensure that your wrist is rigid to lower the force on your elbow.

Always get some time to rest with any sign of pain. 

7 Risks and Complications

One is at risk of developing golfer’s elbow pain when they are aged 40 years and above.

It is also possible to develop he pain when performing repetitive activities at least 2 hours every day.

Chronic elbow pain is also associated with limited range of motions, lasting or fixed bend in the elbow (contracture).