Golfers elbow

Golfer’s elbow (Medial Epicondylitis) causes the inner side of the elbow joint to feel painful and tender, it often affects those who play golf (hence the name) and sports which involve throwing.  Manual occupations and those which involve climbing may also be affected.

What causes Golfers elbow?

Again this is an over use condition.  The affected tendon is the common flexor tendon which attaches the flexor muscles of the forearm and attaches to the inner side of the elbow, these are the muscle that cause the fingers to curl up.

Due to over use microscopic tears develop causing the tendon to degenerate resulting in the symptoms of golfers elbow. Where the condition becomes chronic or long lasting calcification can occur where the tendon attaches the bone (the tendon insertion). In rare cases larger tears can develop, but the vast majority of cases are not serious and can be self managed.

The Symptoms

Pain and tenderness on the inner side of the elbow are the most common symptoms over the bony prominence called the medial epicondyle.  Pain is usually triggered by gripping (lifting with your palm facing up, squeezing or pulling) a spot can usually be felt over the bone just in front of the tendon itself.

How is it Diagnosed

The symptoms are usually classic in their presentation so no special investigations are usually required, if there is uncertainty about the diagnosis an ultrasound or MRI may be required.

Can I prevent it?

  • If you are new to sport or activity seek expert advice as poor or incorrect technique increases the risks of injury.
  • Build up any new activity slowly, it takes time for the body to adjust to new sports and activities
  • DIY is another common cause of golfers elbow especially if you are not used to doing it. Avoid repetitive actions or excessive lifting, break up large jobs into more manageable chunks
  • Before starting strenuous activity warm up (see our sports injury information)
  • Good posture and correctly set up workstations is important

How do I manage my Golfers elbow?

Most cases can be self-managed with modification of activities, simple exercises and pain killers if required, a small number of cases may require a steroid injection or in very rare cases surgery may be considered.

Advice

  • If the elbow feels sore after physical activity apply an ice pack for 15 minutes every few hours
  • Massaging the elbow may help and try using topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory gels available from pharmacists
  • Racquet sports, increase the size of the grip by adding more tape
  • Sports shops or online often stock specially designed braces for golfers elbow symptoms. They work by applying pressure to the tendons and muscles during activity and help reduce symptoms
  • Special exercises from your Physiotherapist called eccentric exercises can be beneficial to golfers elbow suffers

Further Treatment

Anatomically guided Corticosteroid injections can be done for tennis elbow, this involves steroid being injected around the tendon and its insertion into the bone.  However with any invasive procedure there are risks and possible side effects for you to consider, these will be discussed with you in full by the Injection Therapist should an injection be considered necessary.

A small number of cases may require surgery; the surgery aims to release the strain on the tendon, removing degenerated tissue and promote healing.

Both cases can be easily be self-managed yourself by modifying activities to avoid further symptoms and performing some simple exercises and painkillers if required