Golfers elbow, also known as medial epicondylitis, produces pain and inflammation in the tendons that attach the forearm to inside of the elbow, with the pain being localized to the bony bump on the inner elbow. It can also radiate down the forearm along the length of the wrist flexors.
It is a repetitive strain injury similar to tennis elbow, but affects the inside of the elbow rather than the outside as is the case with tennis elbow. The structures that tend to get inflamed with repetitive use of the forearm are the flexor digitorum and the pronator teres, although other small muscles of the forearm can also be affected.
What Causes Golfers Elbow?
This kind of forearm tendonitis is caused by repetitive use of the wrist flexors without the appropriate amount of rest or stretching. Continuous motions such as gripping, squeezing, rotating the wrist and forearm, and flexing the wrist can cause strain to the tendons, causing micro tears in the tissue and pulling on the bone where the tendons insert.
In addition to golf, golfers elbow is classically associated with racquet sports, throwing sports, and weight training, as well as any activity that requires you to repetitively bend and straighten your elbow for long periods over time.
The most prominent symptom is a deep, dull ache on the bone of the inner elbow, sometimes radiating down the forearm. There may be stiffness, weakness or numbness and tingling. It can hurt to make a fist, shake hands, or turn a doorknob.
With chronic inflammation (also known as tendinosis) the median or ulnar nerves can become over sensitized leading to tingling, numbness or a burning sensation down the length of the that nerve. Risk for developing golfers elbow increases if you are over 40 years of age, perform a repetitive movement that involves bending and straightening your elbow for more than an hour or two every day, or if you are overweight or a smoker.
If it develops into a chronic condition you may experience ongoing elbow pain, limited range of motion in the elbow, or develop a permanent bend in the elbow.
This sort of injury can sometimes resolve on its own without requiring more than ice and rest. However, if left untreated it can become chronic and then treatment usually takes several weeks to months to resolve the issue.
It’s important to ice the injury for 10-15 minutes 2-3 times per day while the injury is new and take a 1-2 minute stretching break every 20 minutes or so when using the elbow and wrists continuously. The most effective exercise for golfers elbow is a wrist flexor stretch, where the elbow is extended out in front, palm facing upwards,
How Apex Can Help
The treatment with any tendonitis is usually rest, ice and activity modification, followed by gentle stretching and strengthening. Sometimes an elbow strap or elbow brace can help unload the wrist flexor tendons and disperse the strain through the region under the brace.
The Apex Centre offers a variety of Bauerfiend elbow braces which can be used if the condition doesn’t clear up on its own within a couple of weeks. Physiotherapy and massage therapy can also help speed the healing process by promoting new collagen growth, realigning the tissue, and reinforcing strength in the direction the muscle should be working.