Golfer’s elbow, also known as medial epicondylitis, describes pain on the inside of the elbow. It is generally considered to be an overuse injury due to repetitive use of the muscles of the arm and forearm, particularly the muscles that bend or flex the wrist and fingers (flexors). This leads to small tears in the tendons that attach to the inside of the elbow (medial epicondyle) and can result in degeneration. This can then result in pain and inflammation.
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Golfer’s elbow can occur as a result of any activity that involves repetitive use of the forearm muscles. As the name, suggests, it is also common in golfers. Several factors can increase a person’s risk of developing golfer’s elbow, including:
- Activities involving prolonged gripping as with racquet sports, gardening or power tools
- Repetitive heavy lifting (bricklaying, weight lifting)
- Tennis players (particularly with frequent forehand shots)
- Recent increases in training intensity, frequency or duration or a change in equipment.
Patients presenting with Golfer’s Elbow will have a very typical presentation including one or multiple of:
- Pain and tenderness on the inside of the elbow
- Pain aggravated by activities such as gripping objects, twisting tops off jars or doorknobs and carrying heavy objects.
- Pain initially relieved with rest
- Weakness of wrist and finger flexor muscles
- Possible nerve involvement leading to numbness or tingling in the ring and little fingers
Our Physiotherapists are skilled at performing a range of orthopaedic tests to confirm the diagnosis of a Golfer’s Elbow.
The initial aim of treatment is to reduce associated pain and inflammation. Rest from aggravating activities is important. Treatment and management options include:
- Avoidance of aggravating activities
- Anti-inflammatory medication as recommended by a doctor or pharmacist
- Taping, braces or supports as indicated
- Physiotherapy- massage and mobilisations, ultrasound, dry needling acupuncture and shockwave therapy
- Development of a pain-free exercise program aimed at stretching and strengthening specific muscles around the elbow.
- Education and advice regarding technique correction for the aggravating activity.
A period of at least 6-weeks should be allowed for resolution of Golfer’s elbow with Physiotherapy treatment. Without Physiotherapy treatment, Golfer’s elbow can often become a chronic, long term condition.