Golfer’s Elbow, medically termed as Medial Epicondylitis is an inflammatory condition that exudes pain from where the tendons of the forearm muscles attach to the bony bump on the inside of the elbow. It is usually caused due to overusing of the muscles in the forearm that allow one to grip, flex the wrist or rotate the arm. Repetitive flexing, gripping, or swinging may also cause sudden pulls or tiny tears in the tendons resulting in golfer’s elbow syndrome. Even though the pain centers around the bony bump on the inside of the elbow, it may gradually radiate into the forearm. Also Read: Tennis Elbow: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
Although, the condition is named ‘Golfer’s elbow’, it is not limited just to golfer’s but even includes tennis player and people who are involved in occupations which require repeated use of the wrists or fingers. Risky sports including tennis, bowling, and baseball can also lead to golfer’s elbow. Some people may also get it from using tools like hammers, screwdrivers, rakes, or painting brushes. Many people confuse Golfer's elbow with Tennis elbow. While in case of Tennis elbow, the pain occurs at the bony bump on the outside of the elbow (i.e. lateral epicondyle), the pain in case of golfer’s elbow usually happens on the inside of the elbow (i.e. the medial epicondyle). Also Read: Tendinitis: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
The absolute cause of this painful inflammatory condition is due to damage to the muscles and tendons that control the wrist and fingers. This damage is usually resultant of repeated or excessive stress that might occur due to improper lifting, throwing or hitting ultimately causing an injury due to some sports.
Apart from playing golf, other activities that cause Golfer's Elbow syndrome include:
Racket sports: Improper posture or technique used while playing tennis or racket or overuse of the topspin technique while holding the racket may injure the tendon in the backhand. Even using a tennis bat or racket that is too small, or heavy may cause this painful condition.
Throwing sports: Sports or activities that include throwing or pitching of a baseball, softball, football, archery or javelin can also cause golfer's elbow.
Weight training: Activities that involve lifting or picking up heavy weights can cause curling of the wrists or stress or strain in the tendons and elbow muscles, ultimately causing the medial epicondylitis condition.
Other Activities: Other occupations or activities including forceful repetitive movement of the hands, wrists and fingers especially in case of construction, carpentry or plumbing can lead to Golfer’s elbow.
Certain causative factors that increase the chances of this painful condition include:
Age: People in their 40’s or above are more prone to this condition.
Timing: People performing repetitive activities for at least 2 continuous hours are more at risk of getting golfer’s elbow.
Habits: People having harmful habits like smoking are more at risk.
Health Condition: An obese person may have higher chances of getting golfer’s elbow syndrome than their healthier counterpart.
The common signs and symptoms of Golfer’s Elbow may develop gradually and are usually characterized by:
- Pain while flexing the wrist towards the forearm
- Pain that extends from the inside of the elbow via the wrist to the pinky
- Difficulty while moving the elbow
- Numbness or tingling in the fingers
- A weak grip of the palm
- Pain while shaking hands
- Stiffness in the elbow
- Weakened wrist
Diagnosis And Treatment
On noticing the above signs and symptoms, do consult a doctor right away to get treated at the earliest. The doctor usually does a thorough physical examination by applying slight pressure on the affected area or asking the patient to move the elbow, wrist and fingers in various ways. The doctor may also perform some diagnostics including X-ray, MRI-scan etc.
The available treatment options usually include anti-inflammatory and analgesic medications that help provide relief from pain, inflammation and swelling. The doctor may even suggest some therapies to the patient to subdue the excruciating pain. These involve:
Rest: Restrict activities and movement of the elbow and take adequate rest to gradually diminish the pain.
Ice Pack: Application of ice wraps for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, three to four times a day for several days.
Brace: Putting a brace on the elbows hinders free movement and reduces tendon and muscle strain. If done properly, it allows the elbow joint to heal quickly.
Exercises: A proper physiotherapy including exercises that stretch and strengthen the elbow may be suggested by the doctor to gradually heal and also allow the arm to move.