What is Golfer’s Elbow and How is it Treated

You’ve just teed off at the fifth hole and suddenly feel pain. The inside of your elbow hurts, your fingers are tingling, and you can’t clench your fist.  What you are experiencing may be a condition called Golfer’s Elbow, and requires prompt attention from your orthopaedic surgeon or specialist.

Anatomy

Golfer’s Elbow, or medial epicondylitis, occurs when the tendons that operate your fingers and wrists become damaged. Much like carpal tunnel syndrome, Golfer’s Elbow can be caused by repetitive motion or incorrect form during athletic activities. The condition is not isolated to golfers but also commonly found in individuals who play tennis or racquetball, lift weights, throw a ball, or even those performing repetitive handiwork around the home.

Symptoms

Golfer’s Elbow presents symptoms including inner elbow pain where the tendon meets the bony protrusion of your elbow, tingling in the ring and little fingers, stiffness in the arm, weakness that can prevent you from making a fist, and sometimes numbness in the wrists or fingers. If not treated it may result in a chronic condition of pain and even decrease the range of motion in your arm.

Diagnosis & Treatment

An orthopaedic surgeon can determine the presence of Golfer’s Elbow through a physical examination with review of your medical history. While x-rays or MRI tests may be used to rule out other conditions, these methods are not typically useful in diagnosing Golfer’s Elbow.

After isolating the issue to this particular syndrome, you will be prescribed a course of treatment that may include NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen, or other types of pain relievers. A cortisone shot may be administered to calm the inflammation and provide some pain relief. You will be ordered to rest the affected arm and apply ice to the sore areas. Gentle stretching and massage can be useful to regain some flexibility in the damaged tendons. Once the pain has subsided, your orthopaedic surgeon may allow you to resume your previous sporting activities very gradually. Your specialist may recommend that you wear a brace or strap to support the tendons. Surgery is sometimes required to correct the situation, but more often results can be achieved with non-invasive treatments.

Any athlete participating in a sport requiring repetitive motion can suffer from Golfer’s Elbow. It is important to protect your tendons and future mobility by consulting an orthopaedic surgeon immediately for appropriate treatment.

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