Golfers Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis)

Golfer's Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis)

Golfer’s elbow refers to pain on the inside of the elbow caused by swelling of one of the tendons that join the forearm muscles to the elbow. The pain is found at the bony bump on the inner part of the elbow where the flexor tendons of the forearm attach to the part of the elbow called the medial epicondyle. For this reason, golfer’s elbow is also known as ‘medial epicondylitis’.

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What causes medial epicondylitis?

Medial epicondylitis is caused by the excessive force used to bend the wrist toward the palm. This can happen when swinging a golf club or pitching a baseball. Other possible causes of medial epicondylitis include:

  • Serving with great force in tennis or using a spin serve

  • Weak shoulder and wrist muscles

  • Using a too tightly strung, too short, or too heavy tennis racket

  • Throwing a javelin

  • Carrying a heavy suitcase

  • Chopping wood with an ax

  • Operating a chain saw

  • Frequent use of other hand tools on a continuous basis

Medial epicondylitis is also known as golfer’s elbow, baseball elbow, suitcase elbow, or forehand tennis elbow.


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What are the symptoms of medial epicondylitis?

The most common symptom of medial epicondylitis is pain along the palm side of the forearm, from the elbow to the wrist, on the same side as the little finger. The pain can be felt when bending the wrist toward the palm against resistance, or when squeezing a rubber ball.

The symptoms of medial epicondylitis may look like other medical problems or conditions. Always see your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is medial epicondylitis diagnosed?

The diagnosis of medial epicondylitis usually can be made based on a physical examination. The doctor may rest the arm on a table, palm side up, and ask the person to raise the hand by bending the wrist against resistance. If a person has medial epicondylitis, pain usually is felt in the inner aspect of the elbow.

How is golfer's elbow diagnosed and treated?

Your doctor will need to conduct a physical examination and ask about your daily activities. An X-ray may also be done to confirm the diagnosis, and to exclude other associated injuries that can occur with a golfer’s elbow.

Treatment may begin with home-based therapy and medication to relieve the symptoms. This includes:

  • Rest
  • Applying ice or a cold compress to the elbow and inner part of the forearm
  • Stretching out the forearm
  • Using a brace for support
  • Taking medication to relieve pain and inflammation

As the pain subsides, you may gradually resume normal activity and perform simple exercises to help strengthen the arm.

For persistent pain that does not respond well to home-based therapy, your doctor may recommend corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation or plasma-rich protein injections to boost the healing process. Most people recover without the need for surgery, but in rare circumstances this may be advised. The procedure may involve the removal of damaged tissue, build-up of scar tissue, or extra bone which may be pressing on the tendon.

Depending on the type of treatment and need for surgery, recovery time ranges from 4 weeks to 6 months or more for severe cases

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