Golfer’s Elbow is a term used to describe a form of tendonitis that causes pain and inflammation in the connective tissues in the forearm as well as the elbow itself. Medically known as “Medial Epicondylitis” it is usually related to repeated use of the wrist and arm in bending, grasping, and twisting motions. Golfer’s elbow tends to develop gradually as the tendons develop tiny tears that lead to increasing wrist, elbow, and forearm pain.
What Causes Golfer’s Elbow?
Despite the name, you don’t need to be an active golfer to develop medial epicondylitis. It can be caused by a variety of repetitive activities including things like swinging a tennis racquet, frequently carrying loaded food trays, hammering nails, or even typing on a computer keyboard.
Without proper treatment, medial epicondylitis can potentially cause permanent damage which can limit your elbow’s range of motion. This can further exacerbate causing chronic pain as well as weakening your grip. In some severe cases, chronic pain can even affect sleep quality. All of these effects can also impact your overall quality of life.
Who Is Most At Risk Of Developing Golfer’s Elbow?
Statistically speaking, less than 1% of the population will develop a case of golfer’s elbow. Though it tends to affect men and women between the ages of 45 and 65 the most. It’s also worth noting that women are more likely than men to develop golfer’s elbow. It’s estimated that 90% of people with golfer’s elbow develop through repetitive activities that aren’t related to athletics.
Which Are Is More Likely To Be Affected By Golfer’s Elbow
For most people, medial epicondylitis typically affects the dominant arm. A lot of people note that symptoms usually start at a tender spot on the inner elbow. From there the pain of golfer’s elbow gradually starts to radiate up and down your arm.
Is There A Difference Between Tennis Elbow & Golfer’s Elbow?
Despite the name, tennis elbow often isn’t related to sports rather it is related to repeatedly using the wrist and arm to throw, lift or pound. However, the pain and inflammation of tennis elbow tend to affect the outside of the elbow.
What Are The Common Symptoms Of Golfer’s Elbow?
Common symptoms of golfer’s elbow can take weeks or possibly even months to gradually develop. It often starts out as pain in your inner elbow that seems worse first thing in the morning. Other common symptoms of medial epicondylitis include:
- An increasing ache in your forearm or wrist
- Discomfort when you try to make a fist
- A notable decrease in grip strength
- Tingling in your hand
- Developing numbness in your hand
- How Is Golfer’s Elbow Diagnosed?
The process of diagnosing golfer’s elbow starts with your primary physician asking you about the type of activities that make your elbow hurt. This is typically followed by a physical examination of your arm for specific movements that cause pain. If necessary, your physician might also recommend further diagnostic tests such as:
- An MRI Ultrasound
- A CT scans
- Bone scans to assess existing trauma to the localized bone tissues
How Is Golfer’s Elbow Treated?
Rest is the most practical and first step in trying to abate the symptoms and discomfort of Golfer’s Elbow. Most physicians recommend you rest your arm for at least six weeks before playing sports or resuming the daily activities that put a strain on your arm. If you work in a demanding labor job, your physician might provide you with documentation for your employer to move you to a light-duty position for four to six weeks.
Other non-invasive methods for treating golfer’s elbow can include things like
- Icing the affected forearm
- Using anti-inflammatory medications
- Wearing a special brace on your forearm
- Wearing a night splint on the arm
- Physical therapy
If your golfer’s elbow symptoms don’t start to show improvement, your physician might recommend an additional treatment such as
- Targeted corticosteroid injections
- Platelet-rich plasma injections to boost the healing of torn connective tissues
Can Golfer’s Elbow Be Prevented?
Preventing golfer’s elbow starts by being mindful of your repetitive motions. This includes things like playing sports. Ideally, you want to pay special attention to your wrist and forearm during your warmups. You might even be able to find new sports equipment or use a modified technique for your forearm motions.
A tennis player might find that it helps to grip the racquet or loosen the racquet strings. If you are taking tennis lessons, talk to your coach about improving your serve and forehand so you put less stress on your forearm.
Wearing a special brace may help provide your wrist additional support so your tendons can heal. You might also try building in breaks when you can do gentle stretches or simply rest your arm.
Other Increased Risk Factors For Golfer’s Elbow
There are other lifestyle and environmental factors that can put you at increased risk for developing golfer’s elbow. This includes things like:
A job that requires repetitive forearm movements
Self-Care For Golfer’s Elbow
If you’ve noticed the early stages of golfer’s elbow, it’s best to rest the elbow and forearm, which might include abstaining from certain sports and activities. If possible, talk to your coach or employer about things you can do to reduce the repetitive motion to the elbow and forearm.
Consult with your primary care physician about stretches for your wrist and arm that you can do before you participate in activities that strain your wrist, forearm, and elbow. Other self-care things you can do to manage the early stages of golfer’s elbow include:
- Wearing a brace while you work or play sports
- Icing your arm after work or playing sports or after a long day of work
When To Call Your Doctor About Golfer’s Elbow
You should schedule an appointment with your physician about your golfer’s elbow symptoms if you still are experiencing discomfort after two to three weeks of modified activity.
Especially if your elbow looks misshapen, your elbow feels hot or inflamed, or you have a fever. These might be signs of more significant underlying trauma or perhaps even an infection that requires timely, professional treatment.