Golfer's elbow, also called medial epicondylitis, is similar to its counterpart, tennis elbow. The primary differences between these conditions are the location of the pain and the activity that leads to injury. However, both conditions are caused by overuse of the muscles and tendons of the forearm, leading to inflammation and pain around the elbow joint.
Both of these elbow problems, tennis elbow and golfer's elbow, are both forms of tendinosis. Tendons are the structures that connect muscles to the bone. The medical names of tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) and golfer's elbow (medial epicondylitis) come from the names of the bony prominences where the tendons insert, on the inner (medial) and outer (lateral) side of the elbow. The pain of golfer's elbow is usually at the elbow joint on the inside of the arm. Many patients also complain of a shooting sensation down the forearm while gripping objects.
Causes of Golfer's Elbow
golfer's elbow can be caused by an acute injury, or an overuse injury. Most often, golfer's elbow is the result of an overuse condition where a specific activity done many times causes a chronic irritation to the tendon. Golf is one common cause of these symptoms, but many other sport and work-related activities can cause the same condition.
Golfer's Elbow Treatment
Golfer's elbow is a problem that usually heals with simple treatment, and does not cause any long-term elbow problems. Treatment is rarely surgical, as this condition is well managed with a little rest and proper rehabilitation.
Lifestyle modification is important if golfer's elbow does not resolve or if it recurs. With athletes, often a change in technique (see below) can resolve the problem.
Changing Swing Mechanics
Golf clubs should be sized properly, including grip size. Swing mechanics should be evaluated to ensure patients are swinging properly. See a golf pro/instructor for a swing and club evaluation.
Anti-inflammatory medications are often used to help control pain and inflammation. The oral forms of these medications are easy to take, and often help control the inflammation as well as manage the pain associated with golfer's elbow.
If these conservative measures fail, a steroid (cortisone) injection is a reasonable option. If a person has tried more than two cortisone injections without relief, it is unlikely that additional injections will benefit the patient.
Stretching & Exercises
Some simple stretches and exercises can also be helpful in controlling the symptoms of golfer's elbow. These exercises should not cause pain, and if they do the exercises should not be done until the pain resolves. By strengthening the muscles and tendons involved with golfers' elbow, you can help prevent the problem from returning.
Jobe, FW; Ciccotti, MG. ""Lateral and Medial Epicondylitis of the Elbow" J. Am. Acad. Ortho. Surg., Jan 1994; 2: 1 - 8.