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Golfer's Elbow

Dr. Matt Brown
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What is golfer’s elbow?

Golfer’s elbow is the more common term for medial epicondylitis, a condition that occurs due to small tears in the tendons that connect the forearm to the elbow. Golfer’s elbow causes pain and inflammation centered on the bony bump on the elbow, although pain can radiate into the rest of the forearm as well.

Like tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow is a form of elbow tendinitis that is usually the result of repetitive swinging or gripping motion. Tennis elbow affects the inside of the elbow, while patients with golfer’s elbow experience discomfort on the outside of the elbow. However, neither of these conditions are exclusive to the sport for which they are named — tennis players can and do experience golf elbow, as does anyone else who engages in repetitive hand, wrist, or forearm motion.

In fact, golfer’s elbow sometimes goes by the name “pitcher’s elbow,” as baseball pitchers are at high risk of developing the condition. People who frequently bowl, rake, use screwdrivers or hammers, or paint are also at risk. Fortunately, a combination of rest and physical therapy are usually enough to diminish pain and discomfort.Source: WebMD

Golfer’s elbow symptoms

Symptoms of golfer’s elbow tend to develop slowly, especially in cases of overuse, and can range from mild to severe. The bony bump on the elbow is usually the focal point of the pain, but it can extend along the inside of the forearm to the wrist. Patients may also find that the elbow feels stiff and that it’s difficult to move the arm or make a fist.

Some patients may experience weakness, numbness, or tingling in the hands, wrists, or fingers. Symptoms usually worsen with certain movements, such as swinging a golf club or using a screwdriver.

The most common symptoms of golfer’s elbow include:

  • Pain and tenderness in the inner side of the elbow
  • Stiffness in the arm and elbow
  • Hand and wrist weakness
  • Numb or tingling fingers

Source: Airrosti

What causes golfer’s elbow?

Golfer’s elbow is a result of repeated or one-time damage to the muscles and tendons that connect the elbow to the wrist. The single most common cause of golfer’s elbow is chronic overuse, which can cause repeated stress on the tendons that may result in small tears.

While the name may lead patients to believe that golf is the only cause of the condition, a number of sports, occupations, and activities can cause medial epicondylitis. Common culprits include tennis, baseball, archery, football, weightlifting, construction, plumbing, and carpentry. Any activity that places chronic stress on the elbow or wrist can place patients at risk of developing golfer’s elbow.

The most common causes of golfer’s elbow include:

  • Golf or racket sports
  • Throwing sports
  • Weightlifting
  • Repetitive occupational movements

Source: Mayo Clinic

Physical therapy for golfer’s elbow

Rest, stretching, and strengthening are every patient’s greatest weapon against golfer’s elbow. Patients should begin with a routine of rest and stretching to alleviate pain. Once stretching is painless or almost painless, patients can advance into strengthening exercises. Common stretching exercises for golfer’s elbow include wrist flexion and extension, wrist stretches assisted by the opposite hand, and forearm pronation and supination.

Strengthening exercises include eccentric wrist flexion and extension, grip strengthening exercises, forearm pronation and supination strengthening, and resisted elbow flexion and extension. A licensed physical therapist can advise patients on technique and frequency, as each patient will have unique needs.

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