Golfer’s elbow is the term used in referring to a condition affecting the inner part of the elbow where there is a connection between the forearm muscles and the bony bump located inside the elbow. This condition causes pain which may radiate to the forearm and the wrist.
Golfer’s elbow is similar to tennis elbow only that it occurs on the inner part of the elbow as opposed to the outer part in tennis elbow. This condition is not only limited to golfers since tennis players and anyone who uses their wrist repeatedly or clenches their fingers is at a risk of developing this condition. The anterior forearm has a number of muscles which are responsible for the flexion of hand digits, and the pronating and flexion of the wrist. These muscles’ tendons come together in a common sheath originating from the humerus medial epicondyle at the elbow joint.
This part can become inflamed because of minor injuries and obvious reason and this is what causes the pain and inability to handle normal activities that involve movement of the hand, wrist or forearm.
Symptoms of Golfer’s Elbow
This condition is characterized by the following symptoms:
- Tenderness and pain are experienced on the inner part of the elbow and in dome cases the pain will extend along the inner part of the forearm to the writs.
- The elbow might feel stiff and there will be pain when making a fist.
- There might be weakness in the wrist and hand.
- Numbness and tingling are felt by most people with golfer’s elbow and this sensation sometimes radiates to the fingers, mostly the little and the ring fingers.
The pain associated with golfer’s elbow will appear gradually or suddenly and may worsen when the individual is swinging a golf club, pitching or squeezing a ball, shaking hands, turning a doorknob, lifting weights, flexing the wrist or picking something with the palm down.
It is important to see a doctor when over the counter pain killers, rest or ice do not alleviate the pain or get rid of the tenderness. Any individual with an inflamed or hot elbow, a fever, cannot bend their elbow, have a deformed elbow or suspect a broken bone should immediately see a physician for diagnosis and treatment.
Causes of Golfer’s Elbow
This condition has been given the name golfer’s elbow because the tendon is stressed when swinging a golf club especially when the grip used in a baseball style grip. This condition is not only limited to golfing because a large number of patients have never played golf. The condition, though less often, is also referred to as a pitcher’s elbow because the same tendons are stressed when someone is throwing something or pitching a baseball. Other names might include little league elbow or climber’s elbow. This condition is common in people who take part in activities that involve intensive gripping such as climbers.
The pain that is experienced by golfer’s elbow patient is caused by the stressed tendon which is as a result of grip exerted by hand digits and the wrist torsion caused by the action and use of the muscle cluster located in the ulna’s condyle. This condition occurs in the medial side of the elbow and this is what distinguishes it from tennis elbow which affects the lateral side. The onset in this condition is gradual and the symptoms will persist per week before the patients seek medical attention.
Some of the activities that might lead to the development of golfer’s elbow include but not limited to:
Incorrect griping and swinging of a golf club which takes toll on the tendon and muscles involved. Racket sports such as tennis may result in this condition especially when there is excessive topspin, or when the racket is too heavy or too small leading to injury. Throwing or pitching sports such as baseball, archery, javelin, football can all cause golfer’s elbow especially when there are improper techniques used. Improperly lifting weights can result in the overloading of the tendons and muscles and this can lead to golfer’s elbow. There are other activities that might increase chances of developing this condition such as raking, hammering, painting, using a computer, cooking, assembly-line work and wood chopping.
This condition mostly affects individuals who are above 35 years of age. Despite the name, golfer’s elbow will affect anyone who stresses the fingers and wrist repetitively while undertaking any activity that is not necessarily associated with golfing.
Prevention of Golfer’s Elbow
There are steps that can be taken towards the prevention of this condition; these steps include the strengthening of the forearm muscles, stretching before any activity such as sports, fixing the arm when for a perfect swing during golf, lifting smartly to avoid excess force on the elbow. It is important to take a rest and a break especially when pain is noticed. In addition to these measures, time off will be important in enhancing the healing process.
Diagnosis of golfer’s Elbow
The diagnosis of golfers elbow is based on a physical exam and the medical history of the patient. The physician will apply pressure on the affected elbow and ask the patient to move the fingers wrist and elbow in an effort to evaluate the stiffness and the pain experienced. In some cases, x-rays may be used with an aim to rule out other possible cause of the pain such as arthritis and bone fracture. It is rare that comprehensive imaging tests such are MRI are used.
Treatment of Golfer’s Elbow
Treatment of this condition can take different directions but the best and most common include resting until the pain disappears. Ice application on the affected area can help in alleviating the pain. Over the counter pain killers are also effective in dealing with the pain associated with golfer’s elbow. Most of the preventive measures will also be effective in dealing with the condition. When over the counter medications fail to manage the condition, physicians will recommend the used of cortisone injections to reduce the swelling and alleviate the pain. When conservative treatment fails, surgery may be used.