Golfer’s elbow is best known as a condition of the elbow that causes pain in the muscles of the forearm. This pain may also extend to the wrist or, in some instances, the hand.
Anatomy Of The Elbow
The elbow is a hinged joint that consists of three bones: the humerus, the ulna, and the radius. All of the ends of each of the bones are covered with cartilage, which has a rubbery consistency that allows the joints to absorb force and shock. These three bones are held together with ligaments that form the joint capsule. The joint capsule is a sac filled with fluid that surrounds and lubricates the joint, allowing joints to slide easily against one another.
As it pertains to Golfer’s elbow, the muscles in the forearm cross the elbow and attach to the humerus. The outside (lateral) bump just above the elbow is called the lateral epicondyle. Most of the muscles that straighten the fingers and wrist come together and attach to the medial epicondyle which is the bump on the inside of the arm just above the elbow. These tendons (the bicep and tricep tendon) are common locations of tendonitis.
What Is Golfer’s Elbow?
Golfer’s elbow is known as a condition that causes pain where the tendons of the forearm muscles attach to the medial epicondyle on the inside of the elbow. Golfer’s elbow bears many similarities to tennis elbow which occurs in the lateral epicondyle. Those who repeatedly use their wrists or clench their fingers repetitively can develop golfer’s elbow.
What Are The Causes Of Golfer’s Elbow?
Medial Epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow) is caused by gradual damage to the muscles and tendons that control the wrist and fingers. This damage is directly related to overuse and the repeated stress of forceful wrist and finger motions. Improper weight lifting, throwing, and hitting can lead to golfer’s elbow. In addition, poor stretching can have a direct effect of the damage done to the tendons and muscles that control the wrist and fingers.
There are many occupations and sports that can lead to golfer’s elbow other than golf. These include: tennis, football, hockey, baseball, archery, javelin throwing, weight lifting, construction, plumbing, and carpentry.
The Symptoms Of Golfer’s Elbow
There are many symptoms associated with golfer’s elbow. Familiarizing oneself with the symptoms can help rule out other conditions.
Pain And Tenderness
Pain is usually felt on the inside of the elbow as it relates to golfer’s elbow. The pain can sometimes extend along the inner side of the forearm. Pain typically worsens with repeated motions that stress the use of the elbow, forearms, wrists, or hands.
The elbow and the tendons and muscles extending down the forearm may begin to feel stiff. Pain often occurs when attempting to make a fist.
Weakness of the wrist or hand is common with golfer’s elbow. The muscles and tendons become weak as a result of pain and inflammation.
Numbness Or Tingling
Usually tingling or numbness sensations are felt in one or more of the fingers, usually the ring or pinky finger.
Diagnosing Golfer’s Elbow
Golfer’s elbow is normally diagnosed based on a patient’s medical history and through a physical exam from a physician. The physician may apply pressure to the affected area(s) or ask the patient to move their wrist, elbow or forearm in various ways. This allows the doctor to evaluate the levels of pain and stiffness.
XRays may also be utilized to help doctors rule out other conditions that cause elbow, forearm, and wrist pain such as arthritis or a mild fracture. MRIs are performed in rare cases.
Treating Golfer’s Elbow
Using ice and avoiding any motions or activities that cause pain is the first step in treating golfer’s elbow. Medication, therapy, and surgery are all common treatments for golfer’s elbow.
Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and acetaminophen all help in reducing the painful effects of golfer’s elbow. Corticosteroid injections are not commonly utilized for golfer’s elbow because they have not proved to issue long-lasting beneficial effects. Platelet-rich plasma is a newer treatment offered to patients experiencing golfer’s elbow in which a small amount of the patient’s blood is drawn and a concentrated amount of platelets are injected into the tender area.
Resting regularly, taking a break from activities that require the use of the elbow and forearm, icing the affected area, using a brace, and stretching and strengthening techniques are all useful exercises when experiencing golfer’s elbow. Gradually returning to normal activities is recommended along with consulting with an instructor to ensure that proper technique is utilized when playing sports.
Surgery is rarely necessary unless symptoms persist after six months to a year. The TENEX procedure is a new approach which involves minimally invasive surgery that uses ultrasound-guided removal of scar tissue in the region of the affected area.
If you or a loved one are currently experiencing any symptoms of golfer’s elbow or have been diagnosed with golfer’s elbow, contact the experts at the Center for Orthopaedic Specialists today!