Golfer’s Elbow, also known as medial epicondylitis or “baseball elbow,” is a form of tendonitis characterized by pain and inflammation in the elbow. Unlike tennis elbow, a similar condition that affects the elbow’s lateral (outer) tendons, golfer’s elbow impacts the elbow’s medial (inner) tendons.
The medial tendons connect the forearm muscles to the elbow’s inner bone and are prone to breaking down when overworked. It’s crucial to address golfer’s elbow before it evolves into a chronic condition that can impact long-term strength, grip, and mobility.
Golfer’s elbow symptoms center around the elbow’s inner bone, but pain can radiate through the forearm down to the hand.
The condition often starts with subtle discomfort before progressively becoming worse. In addition to general pain and inflammation, the elbow region may become stiffer, and tingling or numbness may occur in the fingers.
Golfer’s elbow symptoms can intensify with movements like shaking hands, gripping tools, and making a fist.
Despite the condition’s name, the cause of golfer’s elbow extends beyond golfing activities and is more broadly a result of forceful, repeated movements of the forearm and wrist area. These culprit movements include repeated gripping, swinging, flexing, and twisting of the wrist.
Sports-related causes include the constant flexion of the wrist when throwing a ball and swinging a racket. For golfers, the condition often develops in the trailing arm during a golf swing and can usually be traced back to poor form or a lack of proper balance that puts unnecessary strain on the forearm.
Outside of sports, blue-collar workers who heavily rely on hand tools, such as painters, plumbers, electricians, and carpenters, are all prone to the condition. Weightlifters are also susceptible due to the excess tension the forearms undergo when lifting heavy objects.
Golfer’s elbow can still occur with proper technique, but poor form, a sudden increase in activity volume, or incorrect equipment sizing are often the root cause.
Several preventative measures can significantly lower the risk of experiencing golfer’s elbow.
Athletes should be careful in utilizing proper form and seek help from an instructor if necessary. Tennis players and golfers should ensure their equipment is the correct size, as should laborers who work with tools.
Starting any activity with a proper warm-up and stretch routine is also crucial, with the volume for activities involving repeated hand and arm movements gradually increasing over time. Pain awareness and incorporating rest when necessary are additional factors in golfer’s elbow prevention.
The prognosis for golfer’s elbow is good, with most patients returning to normal activities after proper rest and treatment.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), such as Advil, ibuprofen, and naproxen, are the best source of immediate relief for golfer’s elbow symptoms. In addition to taking NSAIDs twice daily, it’s advisable to ice the elbow three times daily for 15-20 minutes while incorporating rest.
If symptoms persist or worsen, a corticosteroid or platelet-rich plasma injection may be necessary to provide relief and reduce swelling. A night splint or elbow brace can also provide stability while reducing tension and strain on the region.
Implementing a stretch and exercise routine for your forearms and wrists that focuses on progressive loading and eccentric exercises will allow you to manage golfer’s elbow symptoms and avoid them worsening.
One of the best movements you can implement is forearm rotations, which start with your elbows bent at your sides before rotating your arms between palm-up and palm-down positions. Your target for this stretch should be 5-10 reps for three sets.
Forearm stretches are another effective movement that starts with holding your arm directly in front of you with your palm facing up. You will then use your other arm to pull your hand back toward your body until you feel moderate tension. Hold this position for 15-20 seconds and complete three sets.
Other exercises that can strengthen these muscles and promote healing include wrist curls and extensions, which require light weights or a physical therapy band.
Physical therapy is one of the best treatment options to manage golfer’s elbow symptoms and promote healing.
Scheduling a consultation at Hicksville Physical Therapy will allow us to understand the severity of your symptoms and design a plan for restoring your elbow health and getting you back to normal activities. A simple examination with our staff is usually sufficient to provide an official diagnosis.
Depending on the severity of the condition, our team will start you on a stretch and exercise program that you can implement at home. We will walk you through each movement and then have you repeat it to ensure you understand how to execute it properly. We may also send you home with a physical therapy band to help with these movements.
Soft tissue massages and ultra-wave therapy are additional on-site methods we can incorporate to ease the pain and discomfort you’re experiencing and promote increased blood flow to the forearm region. Additionally, we will offer you guidance on modifying activities until your condition improves.
The length of your physical therapy program will vary based on results, with the ultimate goal of pain-free movement from your wrist to your elbow. Hicksville Physical Therapy has facilitated the recovery of numerous Nassau County residents from golfer’s elbow in as little as four to eight weeks.
Surgery for golfer’s elbow is rare and should only be considered once non-surgical methods have been unsuccessful for six to twelve months.
Surgery usually involves a small incision near the elbow to remove degenerative tissue while restoring the health of repairable tendons. While surgery can significantly improve golfer’s elbow outcomes, there is no guarantee the pain won’t return. Implementing a comprehensive post-op routine, including weekly physical therapy, will increase your chances of a speedy elbow recovery while reducing the risk of a setback.
For more information about golfer’s elbow treatment options in Long Island, contact Hicksville Physical Therapy today.