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Treating medial epicondylitis

How to Treat Golfer’s Elbow: Medial Epicondylitis

Jun 6, 2023

Just because you’ve never played golf, this doesn’t mean that you can’t get diagnosed with a golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis).

Sure, it’s most commonly associated with golfers (hence the name), but, in reality, it can occur in many different activities. Some of these activities are unrelated to golfing, such as weightlifting, manual labor, and even prolonged computer use.

In other words, even if you have zero interest in golfing, you still might need an answer to the question “How to treat golfer’s elbow.” Here’s what you need to know!

What is Golfer’s Elbow? 

A bony prominence on the inside of your elbow is called a medial epicondyle. This part of your elbow is where your flexor tendon and muscles of the forearm and fingers originate. Due to overuse, trauma, and other unknown issues, a small tear can develop at this point of origin due to a defect in microcirculation where the body cannot maintain the origin of these muscles. So, the muscles pull through a tiny tear and scar tissue which is painful.. Because the pain happens with wrist and finger flexion, such as swinging a golf club, this condition is colloquially called a golfer’s elbow.

With proper self-care measures, the golfer’s elbow can be cured independently; however, if this fails, medical epicondylitis treatment will be necessary.

Similar conditions are lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow). While there are several notable differences between these conditions, the oversimplified explanation would be that it depends on which muscle origins are affected.

What are Golfer’s Elbow Symptoms? 

So, how would you even know if you developed a golfer’s elbow yourself?

  • The first indicator is usually the pain on the inner side of the elbow. Since everyone’s experience differs, some describe it as dull, while others say it’s a sharp pain (or even a stabbing sensation). One common thing is that the pain worsens when gripping or flexing the wrist. Sometimes, the pain radiates so that it’s felt in the wrist and the hand.
  • Other than this, there’s tenderness to the touch. Even when not painful, just touching the area causes discomfort
  • Stiffness of the elbow joint in the morning is another symptom that people often report. It’s not surprising that, before you properly stretch it, you might have a limited range of motion in your elbow.
  • Weakness in the arm (much lower grip strength) is one of the main indicators that something is wrong.

Activities involving this tendon or connected muscles worsen all these symptoms. However, if the intensity seems to grow rapidly or for no apparent reason, you need to start looking up therapies for golfer’s elbow.

What Causes Golfer’s Elbow? 

Overuse is the root cause of golfer’s elbow. Previously, we’ve mentioned that golfer’s elbow may be caused by many activities, not all of which are similar to golfing. All of the following activities can result in a tiny tear at the origin of the flexor muscle’s attachment to the bone.

  • Sports involving racket: While tennis elbows affect a different tendon, the truth is that some racket sports have motions that are (from the anatomical perspective) closer to golfing motions. Squash and racquetball, for instance, fall under this category. Forehand swings.
  • Throwing sports: It goes without saying that throwing sports puts the most pressure on your extremities, especially elbows. So, how to treat golfer’s elbow in this situation? You’ll have to take a break or, at least, slow down.
  • Manual labor: Despite all the considerations and safe practices, manual labor usually strains a person’s body. Now, it’s hard to imagine manual labor without repetitive or forceful wrist and forearm movements (this is, more or less, a dictionary definition of manual labor). Therefore, it’s no surprise that people involved in these activities often get injured in the line of duty.
  • Weightlifting: If you lack a proper technique, your weightlifting routines will only worsen your golfer’s elbow. While a person suffering from this may not be able to engage in heavy weightlifting, there are many exercises for golfer’s elbow that one might incorporate into their routine during the early stages. This can alleviate the pain while avoiding activities that further irritate the problem.
  • Musical instruments: Believe it or not, there are a lot of musical instruments like drums (or even a violin), which could make matters worse.

At the end of the day, while one can develop this even without these activities, they’re always a risk factor. 

How to Treat Golfer’s Elbow

If you have the misfortune to contract this vile condition, there are several things you could do to make matters far better.

  • The best thing to treat golfer’s elbow is physical therapy and a counterforce elbow brace, which is similar to the treatment of Tennis Elbow. The brace is placed downstream from the medial epicondlye to offload the pressure, or force, of the muscles as they flex - this should minimize the pain.
  • A physical therapist will review exercises for golfer's ellbow that you can do at home. 
  • Rest is a crucial part of the golfer’s elbow treatment.
  • Icing the affected area is also known to help. This will reduce pain, but it might not be enough.
  • If the pain is unbearable, you may try to alleviate the pain and reduce inflammation with some medication. There are a lot of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that you can get over the counter.
  • Steroid injections are falling out of favor, as the condition does not involve much inflammation. Other treatments include ultrasonic debridement (or cleaning) called the Tenex procedure. 
  • Finally, if nothing else helps, you might resort to surgery where the torn tissue is cut out and a suture anchor is used to repair and reinsert the tendon/muscle origin back onto the medial epicondlye

The average golfer’s elbow recovery time depends on many factors. In general, it will take anywhere between several weeks and several months. Complete rehabilitation should be done in up to six months; however, this varies from person to person. The best way to get a more accurate estimate is to get examined by a trained medical professional (ideally a specialist).

Wrap up

People who suffer from this condition are often in persistent pain and are limited in movement. Both of these are major inconveniences and have a serious impact on your ability to work. When not treated right, the recovery can be lengthy, and there’s always a potential for recurrence. This is why you should contact a specialist to find out how to treat golfer’s elbow correctly.

So, if you want to learn more and get your information from a credible source, find a specialist in golfer’s elbow treatment at the Orthopedic Institute of New Jersey.

This article was reviewed and approved by an orthopedic surgeon as we place a high premium on accuracy for our patients and potential patients.