What is Golfer’s Elbow?
Medial epicondylitis, known as golfer’s elbow, is a type of tendonitis that causes pain in the elbow and arm and can be irritating and even debilitating. The pain radiates from the inner bump on the elbow, the medial epicondyle, as a result of overuse and strain on the common flexor tendon.
Symptoms of Golfer’s Elbow
- Pain—Pain on the inner side of your elbow is the most common and obvious of golfer’s elbow symptoms. If not addressed, the pain will often spread into your wrist and forearm.
- Pain with wrist rotation—Your wrist may hurt to rotate downward or sideways.
- General weakness in arms
- Stiff or rigid elbow
- Tingling or numbness in the fingers—Many people with golfer’s elbow with experience tingling in their fingers, especially ring and little fingers.
In most cases these symptoms will worsen with time without proper treatment.
How is it Caused?
Golfer’s elbow is not only caused by golfing! Any frequent activity that requires repeated twisting or flexing of the wrist can cause golfer’s elbow. This is because repeated twisting overuses the forearm muscles and puts a strain on the tendon connected to the inner elbow.
Activities that can cause golfer’s elbow include:
- Playing golf, tennis, racquetball, or another sport frequently using your wrists
- Frequent computer use
- Weight training
Keep in mind that a day or two of performing these activities will not cause golfer’s elbow; many days and hours of continual strain create the problem.
Golfer’s Elbow vs. Tennis Elbow
Golfer’s elbow is often confused with tennis elbow, a similar condition. Both conditions are forms of epicondylitis (inflammation of tendons attached to the elbow), but affect the elbow in different places.
While golfer’s elbow affects the inside of the elbow, tennis elbow affects the outside. Just as golfer’s elbow is not limited to golfers, tennis elbow is not limited to tennis players. In fact, a golfer can develop tennis elbow and a tennis player can develop golfer’s elbow.
Golfer’s Elbow Treatment
The quicker golfer’s elbow is diagnosed, the quicker it can be resolved with proper treatment. If you have had elbow pain for over four weeks, this is known as chronic epicondylitis and requires more severe intervention.
Chronic golfer’s elbow creates inflammation throughout the whole body, which makes the injury more difficult to heal.
- Ice—Use ice or cold packs for 10-15 minutes several times a day
- Rest—Rest your elbow by reducing use and/or wearing an elbow brace
- Heat—Use heat such as heat packs or a warm bath if this relieves the pain
- Physical therapy—Physical therapists will give you exercises and tips on how to relieve and treat your golfer’s elbow
- Surgery (in severe cases)—Surgery can be performed on the affected tendons in extreme cases, after referral by a doctor
Once your golfer’s elbow has been treated, take care to ease into your previous routines. Often continuing to work with a physical therapist can be helpful to learn how to modify these routines to prevent the reemergence of golfer’s elbow. Stretching and learning the proper technique for activities such as weight training before and after repeated exercise of your arms is recommended for prevention. Furthermore, gradual strengthening of your forearm muscles will help prevent unnecessary strain and weakness.
When Should You See a Doctor?
You can self-diagnose and self-treat Golfer’s elbow, as outlined in this article, but there are times when obtaining your doctor’s opinion and assistance is necessary. Please see your primary care doctor if you have these symptoms:
- Inflamed, hot elbow
- Deformed elbow
- Possible broken bone
Golfer’s elbow is a painful condition that can reoccur if improperly treated, so be sure to follow these tips for a happy and healthy body! If you need help getting back into the swing of things, contact Advanced Back and Neck Care for an appointment.
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