What is Golfer’s Elbow?
Golfer’s elbow is a condition associated with pain on the inside of the elbow where tendons of your forearm attach to the bony prominence (medial epicondyle). It is also called medial epicondylitis and is caused by injury or irritation to the tendons which can become painful and swollen.
Besides golf, activities such as baseball or lifting a heavy bag or suitcase may also cause medial epicondylitis, hence the terms “baseball elbow” and “suitcase elbow” are also used.
Causes of Golfer’s Elbow
Golfer’s elbow is an injury that can occur due to sports such as golf, tennis, basketball, archery etc. which can involve overuse of the arm and wrist. Other causes include:
- Improper technique while weight lifting or throwing.
- Certain occupations such as carpentry, plumbing etc.
Smoking and obesity may increase the risk of injury.
Symptoms of Golfer’s Elbow
The symptoms of golfer’s elbow include:
- Pain on the inside of the elbow
- The stiffness of the elbow
- The weakness of the affected hand
- Numbness or tingling sensation in the fingers
- Difficulty moving the hand
Diagnosis of Golfer’s Elbow
Your doctor will review your medical history and daily activities. A physical examination is performed where elbow movement and pain are assessed. An X-ray or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan may be ordered to visualize the elbow joint.
Treatment of Golfer’s Elbow
Golfer’s elbow can often be treated by conservative methods such as:
- Application of moist heat to the region of pain
- Use of elbow wraps
- Mild massage to the painful area
- Stretching exercises
Surgery for Golfer’s Elbow
Surgical intervention is necessary if you do not respond to conservative methods after about 6 months. Open surgery is usually performed to treat golfer’s elbow although an arthroscopic technique may also be used.
Surgery involves the following steps:
- Local or general anesthesia is administered.
- An incision is made over the medial epicondyle.
- Your surgeon detaches the common origin for tendons attached to the medial epicondyle.
- Damaged and degenerated tendon tissue is removed without injuring the surrounding ligaments.
- Microfracture of the medial epicondyle is performed where numerous small holes are drilled into the bone to promote healing.
- The common origin for the tendons is then reattached to the bone and the incision closed.
- Your arm is supported by a splint.
- Your surgeon suggests light exercises such as sponge squeezing for the first few weeks.
- You may begin resistance exercises after 6-8 weeks.
- You may begin participating in sports after 6-8 months.
Risks and Complications Associated with Surgery for Golfer’s Elbow
Surgery for golfer’s elbow may be associated with certain risks which include:
- Elbow ligament injuries
- Nerve injuries