Categories: Orthopaedics

Golfer’s Elbow: Causes, symptoms & treatment

What is Golfer’s elbow?

Golfer’s elbow refers to irritation or inflammation of a tendon. Tendons are tough tissues that connect the elbow to the wrist and aid in bending the wrist towards the palm. In short, the medical condition is a type of tendinitis. This is primarily caused by injury or overuse of tendons, leading to small tears. The damage to the tendons, which causes pain on the inside of the elbow, leads to inflammation and, hence, pain. Golfer’s elbow is known by various other names like baseball elbow, forehand tennis elbow, and suitcase elbow. In medical terminology, it is called medial epicondylitis.

Causes of Golfer’s Elbow

Golfer’s elbow occurs when excessive force is exerted on the wrist and the fingers while bending the palm towards the wrist. Repetitive stress causes injury or damage to the tendons that are in control of the wrist and the fingers. Such repetitive wrist motions are especially common in sports activities like golf, among various others.

Other instances where golfer’s elbow is a common occurrence are:

  • Throwing a javelin
  • Participating in archery
  • Playing with a tennis racket that is too short or too tightly strung
  • Using a spin serve or serving a tennis ball with excessive force
  • Using an axe to chop wood
  • Using a chainsaw
  • Using other hand tools frequently like carpentry, plumbing, and construction
  • Lifting heavy load
  • Lack of warm-up exercises before playing the above-mentioned sports
  • Weak wrist and shoulder muscles

Risk Factors of Golfer’s elbow

Below are the possible risk factors of the medical condition:

  • Age: Individuals above the age of 40 years are comparatively more susceptible to developing the condition.
  • Obesity: Obese individuals are more prone to tendon injuries.
  • Lifestyle habits: Lifestyle habits like smoking may also make an individual more susceptible to the condition.

 Symptoms of Golfer’s elbow

Some of the most common symptoms of Golfer’s elbow are as follows:

  • The golf elbow pain and tenderness have their origin on the inside of the elbow. However, it may sometimes extend to the inside of the forearm. Such symptoms get aggravated with excessive, repetitive movements of the injured elbow.
  • Weakness in the damaged elbow is one of the most common symptoms of the medical condition.
  • Stiffness of the elbow is another tell-tale sign of the condition. Movements like making a fist or squeezing a rubber ball may become difficult.
  • Nagging tingling sensation and/or numbness may extend to one or more fingers, especially the little finger and the ring finger.

 Diagnosis for Golfer’s Elbow

The diagnostic process for the condition typically follows the below procedure:

Physical examination: The medical practitioner is likely to place your arm on a flat surface with the palm side up. You will then be asked to raise your forearms by bending your elbow while applying pressure on the arms. You are most likely to feel medial epicondyle pain on the inside of the elbows.

Enquiry: The healthcare practitioner may ask you about your daily activities and whether you face any obstacles in completing them.

Medical tests: Although a physical examination is usually sufficient in diagnosing a golfer’s elbow, the medical practitioner may recommend an X-ray of the arm to confirm the medical condition.

Treatment for Golfer’s elbow

The following are some of the medial epicondylitis treatment options available for the medical condition:

  • Apply ice packs to the inner arm and forearms for controlling the inflammation
  • Take over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications
  • Local injection of corticosteroid
  • Local plasma-rich protein injections
  • Wear gold elbow braces
  • Physical therapy
  • Stretching exercises and Eccentric strengthening exercises.

Wrist extensions: Place the affected hand and a table or on the knee comfortably. Make sure that the wrist hangs over the edge of the table or the knee. Now, place a weight weighing 1 pound in the suspended hand, and raise and lower it gradually, as many times as recommended by your doctor.

Finger extensions: Put all the fingertips very close together and wear a rubber band around them. Slowly pull apart the fingertips to as far as the rubber band allows.

Ball squeezes: Take a soft rubber ball in the palm of the affected hand. Clasp the ball to make a fist around the ball. Squeeze and release the ball alternatively, and repeat this movement as many times as advised by your doctor.

Pronation and supination of the forearm: Place the affected arm on a table or your knee. Hold a heavy object, like a hammer, in the affected arm, keeping the palm parallel to your body. Rotate the arm, making sure that the palm faces downwards. Repeat this step with the palm facing upwards.

  • Surgery, only in rare cases

Prevention of Golfer’s elbow

Some measures to prevent the medical condition from recurring or from worsening are as below:

  • Strengthening weak muscles and tendons of wrists, forearms, and shoulders
  • Maintaining the correct body postures while lifting heavy objects and making repetitive hand movements.
  • Maintaining accurate body mechanics while lifting heavy objects and moving objects. If you are playing a sport that demands repetitive and forceful hand movements, make sure that you are following the right techniques.
  • Use the right equipment for the sport that you play.
  • Perform warm-up exercises before every sports activity to flex up your muscles and prepare them for repetitive and forceful movements in advance.
  • Stretching the forearm muscles gently before and after repetitive movements.
  • Understand when your body requires rest

Dr. Atul Shrivastava | Consultant – Orthopaedics | Narayana Superspeciality Hospital Howrah, Kolkata

Narayana Health

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