What is Golfers Elbow?
Golfers elbow or medial epicondylitis is an overuse injury similar to tennis elbow (on the outside of the arm) but causing pain on the inside of the elbow instead. It is also known as throwers elbow or little league elbow. On occasion, it can also involve the ulnar nerve on the inside of the forearm. This, therefore, can cause discomfort and a tingle in the small and ring fingers.
Symptoms of Golfers Elbow
The main symptoms are pain and tenderness on the inside bone of the elbow called the medial epicondyle. This is worse especially when gripping hard with the hand. There may be a general weakness of the wrist. Pain is also worse by bending the wrist palm down against resistance. In addition, there can be pain when resisting pronation or rotating the wrist inwards.
Causes of Golfers Elbow
Medial epicondylitis is caused by repeated wrist flexion or bending the wrist, particularly against resistance such as holding a golf club. It can also occur from throwing actions, as well as in occupations such as through manual jobs. Examples are carpentry or working at a computer workstation or desk. Golfers Elbow tends to occur after a period of repeated overuse. Pain can also be made worse with resting the elbow on the desk
The tendon of the wrist flexor muscles on the inside of the elbow becomes painful and inflamed at their attachment point on the inner elbow.
First Aid Treatment
Apply the RICE principles of Rest, ice, compression, and elevation when the injury is acutely painful. A cold therapy or anti-inflammatory cream can help. A compression bandage or support can be applied for 10 to 15 minutes every hour can also be useful. After the first day or so, this can be reduced to 3 to 4 times a day as required. Later in the rehabilitation program or if the injury becomes chronic applying heat to the muscle, may be more beneficial.
Rest is very important. Golfers elbow will not heal if it is not allowed to rest. Continuing to use the wrist may result in the injury becoming chronic which is much more difficult to treat. After 3 days apply heat to the muscle and use a heat retainer or elbow support. Heat will help stimulate blood flow. A tennis elbow brace can be worn which will help by taking the strain off the tendon. It does this by applying pressure to the muscles and changing the angle of pull on the tendon. This, therefore, relieves tension on the painful part of the tendon.
Physical Therapy Treatment
Because the pain of golfers elbow can be quite severe and the area prone to repeated injury, treatment is usually multifaceted. Local pain relief creams and gels and supports, therefore, can be helpful as well as oral pain relief. The therapist’s treatment focuses on understanding the way the area was injured(injury mechanism) and then has adapted to the injury. Typically the therapist treats the arm and hand, and then the shoulder and upper back and neck. On occasion, the other shoulder and arm may need to be looked treated as well as the lower back and pelvis.