Golfer’s elbow is a form of tendonitis that causes pain in the elbow where the tendons of the forearm muscles attach to the bone along the inside of the elbow. This pain can spread down to the forearm and wrist. The medical term for this condition is medial epicondylitis.
The epicondyles of the elbow are bony prominences that you can feel on both sides of the elbow joint. The lateral epicondyle is the bony origin for the wrist extensors: the medial epicondyle is the bony origin for the wrist flexors.
Pain at the tendon insertion of these muscle groups is referred to as lateral elbow tendinopathy (tennis elbow) and medial elbow tendinopathy (golfer’s elbow). The terms can be a little confusing, however in summary, tendinopathy refers to a nonrupture injury in the tendon or peritendon that is aggravated by mechanical loading.
The term tendinosis is the term that is used to describe chronic degenerative tendon pathology, characterised by by cellular changes. Often patients present in the continuum between acute and chronic condition that may fluctuate over an episode of care.
Golfer’s elbow is a term used for persistent tendon pain and loss of function related to mechanical loading of the medial elbow tendons. Despite its name, it is a condition that is not just limited to golfer’s and is very common in those who perform repetitive activities, clench their fist a lot and repeatedly use their wrists.
Golfer’s elbow is usually caused by repetitive stress or overuse of the wrist and fingers. This can occur from activities such as golfing, pitching, throwing, painting, and typing. It can also be caused by lifting heavy objects with an extended arm or performing activities that require twisting or gripping. You are at a higher risk of developing golfer’s elbow if you are aged 40 or over and performing repetitive activity.
The most common symptom of golfer’s elbow is pain and tenderness on the inner side of the elbow on the medial epicondyle. The pain may also radiate down to the forearm and wrist. Other symptoms may include stiffness, weakness, numbness, or less commonly tingling in the fingers.
Most cases of golfer’s elbow can be treated with conservative treatment options.
Depending on the timing of presentation for therapy, patients are initially treated with rest. Most often patients present in the subacute or chronic phase, so therefore a phased approach to reintroduce stress, increase strength, improve endurance through a customised strengthening program is prescribed.
This consists of both concentric and eccentric resistance exercises combined with stretching of the wrist extensors. There is good clinical evidence that these exercises combined with joint mobilisation techniques assist in diminishing pain and improving motor function via neurophysiologic mechanisms.
In severe cases, surgery may be required to repair the damaged tendons.
Preventing golfer’s elbow involves the following:
avoiding repetitive motions that strain the wrist and forearm muscles. Stretching and strengthening exercises for the wrist flexors and forearm muscles can also help prevent this condition. Using proper equipment and technique while performing activities can also reduce the risk of developing golfer’s elbow.
Golfer’s elbow is a common overuse injury that can affect anyone who performs repetitive activities that strain the wrist and forearm muscles. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential to prevent the condition from worsening and causing long-term damage. With proper treatment and preventive measures, most people can successfully manage golfer’s elbow and return to their daily activities pain-free.
If you are experiencing symptoms of golfer’s elbow, seeking professional treatment is crucial to prevent the injury from worsening. Melbourne Hand Therapy offers expert care and treatment for various hand and upper limb conditions, including golfer’s elbow. Our team of experienced therapists will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan to alleviate your pain and help you return to your daily activities.