Golfer’s elbow also called medial epicondylitis is a medical condition that causes extreme pain inflammation in the tendons connecting the forearm to the elbow. This pain can also spread to the forearm and wrist. This condition is very similar to a tennis elbow, which is not limited to the particular area and can occur on the outside of the elbow.
The pain in a golfer’s elbow is centered on the bony bump on the elbow and can spread further to the forearm. This condition is caused because of the overuse or strain of the muscles in the forearm that support gripping, rotation of the arm, and flexing of the wrist. Consistent flexing, gripping and swinging can lead to pulls or tiny tears in the tendons, which can cause a golfer’s elbow.
This condition is not limited to only golfer’s but can affect people who play tennis or do any such activity that overuses the wrists or the clenching of fingers.
Symptoms of golfer’s elbow
Some of the common symptoms of golfer’s elbow include:
- Pain and tenderness, typically in the inner part of the elbow. The pain can also spread to the inner side of the forearm and can worsen with some specific movements.
- Stiffness and pain in making a fist.
- Weakness in the hands and wrists.
- Numbness or the tingling in one or more fingers, usually the ring and little fingers.
The pain can be sudden or gradual. However, the pain can worsen with specific movements and also, if corrective treatment is not taken.
The method to relieve the pain is to over-the-counter pain killers. However, in cases, where these do not work effectively to provide the required relief, the patient can seek help from a doctor. The symptoms that will indicate the need to visit a doctor include:
- A hot and inflamed elbow
- Pain in the elbow that causes fever
- The deformed appearance of the elbow
- Chances or symptoms of a broken elbow
Causes of golfer’s elbow
This condition is caused when the muscles and tendons that control the wrist and fingers are overstressed and overused. This damage is typically caused because of forceful wrists and motions of the finger. Moreover, incorrect weight lifting, throwing or hitting, poor conditioning before exercising, can all cause a golfer’s elbow.
Apart from golf, the following things can cause a golfer’s elbow:
- Sports that are played with can lead to a golfer’s elbow because of improper techniques and tennis strokes. Playing the topspin method consistently or using a racket, which is either too small or too heavy can also cause the issue.
- Sports such as baseball, volleyball, etc. that involve throwing can cause a golfer’s elbow. Moreover, football, javelin, and archery can also lead to a golfer’s elbow.
- Improper weight lifting techniques can damage the tendons and elbow muscles.
- Occupations that involve forceful and recurring movements of the wrists and fingers. These include plumbing, carpentry, etc.
Risk factors of golfer’s elbow
Even though a golfer’s elbow can happen to anyone at any age but certain people are more prone to the risk. These include:
- People above the age of 40 years
- People who are obese
- Individuals who smoke
- Doing the straining activity at least 2 hours a day
Prevention of golfer’s elbow
A golfer’s elbow can be prevented by the following measures:
- Strengthening the forearm muscles by squeezing a tennis ball or lifting light weights. Simpler exercises can help the muscles to absorb the sudden physical stress.
- Stretching before any activity can help warm up the muscles.
- Correcting the form of any sport such as tennis or golf with the help of a professional can help prevent this problem.
- Using the correct equipment such as lighter graphite clubs for golfing, and appropriately-sized tennis rackets, etc. can help to reduce the stress on the elbow.
- Applying proper technique while lifting free weights or anything else.
- Taking rest between stressful activities to allow some rest to the wrist and elbow.
Diagnosis of golfer’s elbow
Golfer’s elbow is generally diagnosed by a physical exam and also concern with medical history. To check the pain and elbow stiffness, the doctor may apply pressure to the affected area. The physician might also ask the patient to move the fingers, wrist, etc. in different motions.
In certain cases, an X-ray might be conducted to eliminate other causes of pain such a fracture or arthritis. Only in rare events, the patient is advised an MRI.
Treatment of golfer’s elbow
The foremost treatment of this condition is to avoid all those activities that cause stress to the tendons or overexert the muscles. The patient can also use ice packs and over-the-counter medications to get relief from pain.
In other cases, corticosteroid injections may be given to the patient in the affected area. This is an advanced treatment method which involves injecting platelet-rich plasma and other anti-inflammatory factors into the affected part after drawing out some blood from the particular place. However, this technique is not very widely used and is a recent introduction.
Therapy in other conditions can be another alternative to a golfer’s elbow. Some of the following measures can help heal the problem:
- Giving up activities that strain the muscles and tendons of the elbow and related areas
- Avoid repetitive actions that overstress the concerned area
- Using a brace to support the muscles and tendons of the particular arm
- Stretching, warming and strengthening the impacted area to avoid any injuries
- Applying ice on the elbow for 15-20 minutes thrice every day until the condition improves
Overall, golfer’s elbow is not a serious medical condition. If treated timely, the pain and cause can be effectively cured. However, in delayed treatment cases, the problem can intensify to cause severe pain and loss of temporary function.