Pacific Rim Orthopedic Surgeons

Golfer's Elbow

Tennis elbow and Golfer's elbow are often used interchangeably or considered the same thing, but they are two different types of overuse injuries. While the given name of the injury implies it occurs in golfers, it has other common names like baseball elbow and suitcase elbow, and it's characterized by pain from the elbow to the wrist on the inside of the elbow.

Golfer's elbow is highly treatable, and there are prevention techniques that can help a person avoid it if they're at risk.

What is Golfer's Elbow?

Golfer’s elbow is medically known as medial epicondylitis, a form of tendonitis that results in inflammation in the tendons that connect the elbow to the forearm and elbow pain. The pain felt usually stems from the bony bump on the inside of the elbow, radiating into the forearm. 

golfer's elbow

Golfer's Elbow Causes

There are several golfer’s elbow causes, but the primary one is overusing the muscles in the forearm which allows for rotating the arm, gripping items, and flexing the wrist. The repetitive gripping, flexing, or swinging pulls on the tendons, creating tiny tears that cause the injury. While golfer’s elbow is categorized among sports injuries by many people, any activity where the wrist, hand, or forearm motions are done repeatedly can cause it. Some examples include:

  • Repetitive movements: careers like plumbing, painting, and working in construction include forceful, repetitive movements
  • Weight training: not using the right lifting technique can cause a person to overwork their elbow’s tendons and muscles
  • Throwing sports: sports like bowling, football, baseball, and archery can put excessive strain on the tendon. Golfer’s elbow is often called “pitcher’s elbow” among these sports areas.
  • Racket sports: using rackets that are too heavy, or light, or using an incorrect technique can damage the tendons. 

Golfer's Elbow Symptoms

The primary symptom of golfer’s elbow is pain, which can occur either suddenly or gradually over time, but other golfer’s elbow symptoms include:

  • Elbow stiffness
  • Hand and wrist weakness
  • Tingling or numbness in the fingers, usually the little and ring fingers
  • Tenderness and pain, usually felt on the inner side of the elbow or forearm that may increase during specific movements, such as making a fist.

Treating Golfer's Elbow

Diagnosing golfer’s elbow requires a physical exam that is relatively simple. The patient rests their arm on the table, palm side up, and the doctor will ask to raise the hand by bending the wrist against resistance. If golfer’s elbow is the cause of the elbow pain, it will be felt on the inner side of the elbow.

Golfer’s elbow can resolve itself without any treatment, but managing the elbow pain and injury properly can help quicken recovery. Treatment and management recommendations include:

  • Resting the affected elbow, excluding it from activities that aggravate the injury, such as the ones listed above as potential causes.
  • Icing the elbow for fifteen to twenty minutes, three to four times a day
  • Corticosteroids or painkiller injections from a healthcare provider, help to relieve pain and swelling short term.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, aspirin, and some topical medications can help with elbow pain management. 

Techniques to Help Prevent Golfer's Elbow

As an overuse injury, to prevent golfer’s elbow means avoiding overusing the elbow. For example, if a person feels any pain in the elbow during an activity, stop and take a break from it before the pain worsens. Other prevention techniques to adopt include:

  • Using the right sporting equipment, appropriate golf club, and rackets
  • Using the correct form and techniques when lifting or playing sports
  • Stretching before activities
  • Strengthening the forearm muscles by using light weights or squeezing a tennis ball

Make an Appointment with our Orthopedic Surgeons

We at Proliance Pacific Rim Orthopedic Surgeons strive to help our patients achieve a return to normal activity through compassionate and exceptional care using evidence-based medicine in a patient-friendly environment. We are committed to bringing you a high standard of care that is patient-focused, with the goal of improving your quality of life.