The medical term for golfer’s elbow is medial epicondylitis. Also called pitcher’s elbow, golfer’s elbow is a form of tendonitis—an inflammation of the tendons in the forearm flexor muscles where they insert into the bony, knobby, inside part of the elbow. It typically affects the right arm in righthanders and the left arm and elbow among lefthanders.
How It Happens
The most common cause is overuse, but golfer’s elbow may also result from direct trauma, such as the club head coming to an abrupt stop after hitting a rock or root. As a result, the muscles and tendons that control the fingers and wrist are damaged. The injury is more frequently caused by extreme force or repetitive movements of the wrist and fingers, both of which cause the tendon to be pulled away from the point of insertion into the bone. Apart from sports, the injury could happen during painting, hammering, typing, or any other repetitive activity that involves the hands, wrists or arms.
By the Numbers
Overuse elbow injuries that are caused by medial epicondylitis
Cases of golfer's elbow that require surgery
The age range of people most likely to get golfer’s elbow
Who's at Risk
As the name suggests, it's often golfers who get golfer’s elbow, as do baseball pitchers, throwers, tennis players, weightlifters, and any athlete over the age of 35. Men are more likely to have the condition than women.
-Gradual onset of symptoms
-Mild discomfort when bending or straightening the elbow
-Increasing soreness or stiffness during or after play or practice
-Pain when shaking hands, holding a briefcase, turning a doorknob, or performing any hand movements that involve lifting or grabbing
-Grip and wrist weakness
-Tingling sensation in one or more fingers
Golfer’s elbow is easy to treat in some athletes, but very difficult to treat in others. The standard early treatment includes:
-Apply ice packs for 15-20 minutes, 3-4 times a day.
-Rest until the symptoms have disappeared.
-Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen may relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
-Get medical help if symptoms persist for two weeks.
Recovery time ranges from a few days to six weeks. Once the pain has diminished, begin stretching and strengthening exercises for the forearms and wrists, including:
1. Wrist flexion
2. Wrist extension
3. Wrist rotation
5. Forearm flexion and extension stretch
6. Wrist flexion curl
7. Wrist extension curl
-If pain continues, get an evaluation from a sports medicine physician.
-Prescribed pain and anti-inflammatory medications (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen)
-Possible reference to a physical therapist for further strength and flexibility training.
-Surgery in rare cases to repair bone fragments that have separated from the inner part of the elbow.
-After surgery, several weeks will be needed before returning to vigorous activities involving the arm and elbow.
How to Avoid This Injury
-Maintain strong forearms and wrists with a systematic program of strength and range of motion exercises, including wrist and forearm flexion and extension stretches and curls.
-Squeeze a tennis ball to increase grip and forearm strength.
-Incorporate these movement prep exercises into your warm-up routine:
1. Forearm flexion and extension stretch
2. Wrist rotation
4. Wrist flexion curl
5. Wrist extension curl
-Increase the grip size of your golf clubs or tennis racquets
-Use clubs or racquets with flexible shafts.
-Don’t grip the golf club or tennis racquet too tightly.
-Do not increase the intensity, frequency, or duration of training more than 10 percent a week.
-At the earliest signs of pain, cut back on training or competition.
-Ask a certified golf professional to assess your grip and swing to ensure proper technique.