If you’re a golfer you likely have many things that cause you irritation: slices, bad sand play, chunked chips, yipped putts…and pain on the inside of your elbow. While the team at Sports Medicine of Napa Valley can’t do a whole lot about those chunked chips we can help you with that elbow.
What you’re suffering from is medial epicondylitis, more commonly known as golfer’s elbow. This is a form of tendonitis that comes from overuse.
What is golfer’s elbow?
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 can be local at that bump, or it can spread into the forearm and wrist.
Golfer’s elbow is not to be confused with tennis elbow, which occurs on the outside of the elbow. Actually neither condition is exclusive. Golfers can also develop tennis elbow, and tennis players golfer’s elbow. Golfer’s elbow is also a common condition with pitchers and others who use their wrists or clench their fingers often.
The pain associated with golfer’s elbow can come on suddenly or gradually. The pain can worsen when you swing a golf club or tennis racquet, squeeze or pitch a ball, shake hands, turn a doorknob, lift weights, flex your wrist, or pick up an item with your palm facing downward.
The condition is characterized by these symptoms:
- Pain and tenderness on the inner side of your elbow. Certain movements (such as those listed above) create more pain.
- Stiffness. Your elbow may feel stiff and making a fist hurts.
- Weakness. You may have weakness in your hands and wrists.
- Numbness or tingling. One or more of your fingers, usually pinky and ring, may have tingling sensations.
Causes of golfer’s elbow
Golfer’s elbow involves damage to the muscles and tendons that control your wrist and fingers. Excess or repeated stress is the cause and can occur in these activities:
- Golf — Gripping or swinging clubs too hard.
- Racket sports — Excessive topspin can hurt your elbow. Also, if you’re using a racquet that’s either too heavy or too small.
- Throwing — Improper technique when throwing a baseball, softball, or football can lead to golfer’s elbow.
- Weights — Lifting weights with improper technique can overload the elbow muscles and tendons.
- Other activities — Any activity that requires repeatedly bending and straightening your elbow can cause golfer’s elbow: painting, hammering, chopping wood, raking, using a computer, assembly line work, and cooking. The activity needs to be done for more than an hour a day.
How we treat it
At Sports Medicine of Napa we treat golfer’s elbow first with analgesic and anti-inflammatory medications, along with rest of the elbow. Icing the area for 15 to 20 minutes, three to four times a day can alleviate inflammation. We may provide a counter force brace to reduce tendon and muscle strain. We’ll likely provide a list of stretches and strengthening exercises for the elbow area. And, although it is unlikely, if after six to 12 months nothing has improved, we can do minimally invasive surgery to remove scar tissue in the region of the tendon pain.
If you have any of the symptoms of golfer’s elbow, give us a call at either our Napa or Vacaville offices to set up your appointment.