Golfers, tennis players and others who repeatedly use their wrists or clench their fingers can develop this painful condition.
Golfer's elbow is a condition that causes pain where the tendons of your forearm muscles attach to the bony bump on the inside of your elbow. The pain might spread into your forearm and wrist.
Golfer's elbow is similar to tennis elbow, which occurs on the outside of the elbow. It's not limited to golfers. Tennis players and others who repeatedly use their wrists or clench their fingers also can develop golfer's elbow.
The pain of golfer's elbow doesn't have to keep you off the course or away from your favorite activities. Rest and appropriate treatment can get you back into the swing of things.
Golfer's elbow is characterized by:
The pain of golfer's elbow can come on suddenly or gradually. The pain might worsen with certain movements, such as swinging a golf club.
Consult your doctor if rest, ice and over-the-counter pain relievers don't ease your elbow pain and tenderness. Seek immediate care if:
The pain of golfer's elbow occurs primarily where the tendons of the forearm muscles attach to the bony bump on the inside of the elbow (medial epicondyle). By contrast, the pain of tennis elbow usually occurs at the bony bump on the outside of the elbow (lateral epicondyle).
Golfer's elbow, also known as medial epicondylitis, is caused by damage to the muscles and tendons that control your wrist and fingers. The damage is typically related to excess or repeated stress — especially forceful wrist and finger motions. Improper lifting, throwing or hitting, as well as too little warmup or poor conditioning, also can contribute to golfer's elbow.
Besides golf, many activities and occupations can lead to golfer's elbow, including:
To cause golfer's elbow, the activity generally needs to be done for more than an hour a day on many days.
You could be at higher risk of developing golfer's elbow if you're:
You can take steps to prevent golfer's elbow:
Golfer's elbow is usually diagnosed based on your medical history and a physical exam. To evaluate pain and stiffness, the doctor might apply pressure to the affected area or ask you to move your elbow, wrist and fingers in various ways.
An X-ray can help the doctor rule out other causes of elbow pain, such as a fracture or arthritis. Rarely, more comprehensive imaging studies — such as MRI — are performed.
Treatment begins with avoiding activity that causes pain. To help relieve pain, use ice.
You can take an over-the-counter pain reliever. Try ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others).
Corticosteroid injections are not commonly given because they haven't been shown to be effective long-term. A newer treatment being tried is platelet-rich plasma. This involves drawing a small amount of your blood and injecting a concentrated amount of platelets and other anti-inflammatory factors into the tender area. More studies are needed to evaluate the effectiveness of this treatment.
Try the following:
Gradually return to your usual activities. When your pain is gone, practice the arm motions of your sport or activity. Review your golf or tennis swing with an instructor to ensure that your technique is correct, and make adjustments if needed.
Surgery is seldom necessary. But if your signs and symptoms don't respond to conservative treatment in six to 12 months, surgery might be an option. A new approach called the TENEX procedure involves minimally invasive, ultrasound-guided removal of scar tissue in the region of the tendon pain. More study is needed.
Most people will get better with rest, ice and pain relievers. Depending on the severity of your condition, the pain might linger for months to years — even if you take it easy and follow instructions on exercising your arm. Sometimes the pain returns or becomes chronic.
You'll probably start by seeing your primary doctor. If you don't improve with rest, ice and over-the-counter medications, your doctor might refer you to a sports medicine specialist or to a doctor with advanced training in musculoskeletal disorders.
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
Make a list of:
Below are some questions to ask your doctor.
Don't hesitate to ask other questions.
Your doctor is likely to ask you questions, including: